Free Photography Lesson: Rule of Thirds

Photography Composition: Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds and the golden ratio in photography (also referred to as the golden mean) are two of compositions backbone subjects. They are easy to manipulate by simply changing your position and focus making it easy for beginner photographers to implement into their photographs, and they have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your final shots.

To understand the rule of thirds you need to break your photograph down into three horizontal parts and three vertical parts which will create 9 separate boxes.

Studies show that the human eye doesn't like to rest on objects in the center of a photograph. It is more natural for our eyes to rest off to one of the intersecting lines on the rule of thirds grid. If you place your main objects of interest there you will allow your viewers eye to sit comfortably there instead of fight against a center placed element.

Look at the following photograph for example.

Notice how this photographer put both of him characters close to the intersecting points of this photograph. This photograph is much more natural for the human eye to look at than if this photograph was composed with the farming placed dead center in the middle. You'll also notice how the horizon line was placed alone the horizontal line. This is another rule when it comes to the rule of thirds. When shooting a landscape photograph you should always place the horizon either one third of the way up the picture or one third of the way down the picture. Placing the horizon dead center in the middle is less appealing and less natural for the eye to look at. When deciding where to place your horizon line you usually only have to ask yourself one easy question: Which is more interesting: the sky or the ground? In the case above the ground is more interesting then the sky, therefore the ground takes up 2/3rds of the picture the sky takes up 1/3. If however you were out on a lake and the cloud formations where stunning, while the water was the less interesting element, you could simply reverse your horizon line and place the sky so that it takes up 2/3rds of the photograph and the water would only take up 1/3rd.

In the picture below notice how the main subject of interest is placed at one of the intersecting points while the horizon is placed down on the bottom 1/3rd line allowing the sky to take up 2/3rds of the picture.

Here is a video on the rule of thirds

Other photography pages of interest: