The Rule of Thirds is an oft used and mentioned “rule” for composition. What is is and when do we use it?
First of all, we should establish that there are no hard and fast rules. Photography is an art form and you don’t get great artistic results by following strict rules. However, there are “rules of thumb” that can be helpful, guidelines so to speak that when followed, can lead to results that are esthetically pleasing. The only real “rule” is that the photographer should follow his or her creativity and feeling when pursuing that perfect shot.
So, the The Rule of Thirds is a guideline that suggests dividing a scene into threes, both horizontally and vertically. This creates four places where imaginary lines intersect. Positioning your main subject at those points will make a picture more pleasing to the eye.
Let’s check it out. Here is a very simple, image, that has been divided into threes.
In this shot, the Rule of Thirds is applied in both horizontal as well as in vertical direction. The green grass makes up about 1/3 of the image in a vertical sense and the old shed is placed at the intersection of the lines, 2/3 across in a horizontal sense. Composing like this often adds some tension, energy and interest to an image compared to placing the subject matter right in the center of the photo, which is what many of us tend to want to do instinctively.
To prove the point, here is a shot of the same shed, but this time centered in the photograph. As we can see here, it makes for a decidedly more “boring” composition.
So, we can immediately see that the Rule of Thirds does indeed help make a picture a bit more interesting.
Let’s have a look at some variations (click on the thumbnail to see a larger version):