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The Rule of Thirds: What it is and how to use it

Updated: May 13

There are many important factors that a photographer will consider before taking a photo of a beautiful landscape, roaring waterfall, family portrait, etc. Commonly used and flexible to your imagination is the rule of thirds.


So, what is it? - The rule of thirds is a guideline in photography that helps achieve a better composition. It uses a grid on images that are separated into thirds, including nine equal parts, spaced with both horizontal and vertical lines. Your objective would be to place the important elements of your photo at or near one of the intersecting points within the grid.


Take a look at the photo below. You should be able to notice that the lines on the top right corner are intersecting over the subject's right eye. This is what you will see in your viewfinder for a DSLR camera or on a capable smart phone.


(For iPhones you can turn this feature on in the camera's composition section)


 

The rule of thirds in photography

By following the rule of thirds, you can create balance and also improve the overall composition of your photos!


Mother and son photoshoot at the park

 

So, what else could you use the rule of thirds for? - Well, the fun part is that you can apply it to any type of photography!

Let’s say you have a horizon for a landscape that you want to photograph. By using the rule of thirds, you would place the horizon along one of the four lines found on the grid. A common strategy for this would be to use the upper or lower third of the frame.


Look at the photo below. As you can see, I had decided to place the horizon on the upper third of the grid. After some time of photographing landscapes, I noticed that there is usually more detail in either the foreground or the background. In this case, the foreground had more detail, so I then decided to fill the bottom two thirds of the grid with that.



The rule of thirds using a horizon

Snowy mountain range in Colorado

 

Remember that the rule of thirds is simply a guideline for photographers. There is no concrete right or wrong of how to apply it. Sometimes, the rule of thirds can even be broken! (Future blog topic!)


If anything, knowing how and when to use the rule of thirds is a tool to keep in mind while you are taking your next photo. Something that I typically do is that I change the composition of whatever I'm photographing right then and there. Take those few extra shots and that way you can decide which one you like more after leaving and later uploading your photos!

 

Thank you for taking your time to read about photo composition, by using the rule of thirds. Hopefully this article has taught you more about composition and adding a balance that may be needed to some of your future shots. Until the next topic, get out there and take those photos!



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