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Basic Composition for Newbie Artists and Photographers – 1

Updated on September 20, 2011
Horizon as the centreline
Horizon as the centreline
More land
More land
More sky
More sky

The Rule of Thirds


Have you seen the grid on the right? It’s there as an option on your Digital Camera screen, and it’s thrust upon you in most classes on Composition by Those Who Follow the Rules.

It’s called the Rule of Thirds. The concept is simple. An amateur places his point of interest right in the middle of the picture. In landscapes, he cuts the picture in two by making the horizon the centre-line. The pro doesn’t. She, on the other hand, (being a feminist here,) places the point of interest in one of the four points of intersection and the horizon at one of the horizontal lines.


Advantages

  • Your pictures look professional though most people know this rule anyway.
  • You have more tension and drama in your composition. (Which is a good thing.)
  • You can choose more sky or more ground depending on what you want to say.

Disadvantages

  • If you adhere strongly to this rule, you could look like a desperate wannabe pro.
  • You won’t explore other ideas and will stick to this one rule.
  • All subjects are not co-operative or flexible enough to fit. Artists use artistic license but photographers are handicapped. They can’t move a mountain or push a palm tree aside!

Solutions

  • Slightly go off the points and lines. That’s what great artists did.
  • Know the rule and break it occasionally.
  • Shoot the picture first; you can crop it to fit later.

Break the Rule

You can design a symmetrical picture where both vertical halves are almost mirror images. This obviously cannot follow the Rule of Thirds. Many portraits don't adhere to the rule. The Mona Lisa absolutely flouts it, so tell your critics that if it worked for Old Leonardo, it can work for you.

Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo Da Vinci Here the face and the pointing hand are both at intersection points.
Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo Da Vinci Here the face and the pointing hand are both at intersection points.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci The most famous painting on earth doesn't follow the rule, except for the landscape in the background.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci The most famous painting on earth doesn't follow the rule, except for the landscape in the background.

Comments

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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      6 years ago from Chennai

      Free the statue? That's philosophical!

      Thanks, Jama! :)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Many times I have no clue what a photo's final composition will or should be, only that elements I know I want in it are present. So, like you have also done, I just snap away and crop later. Much like a sculptor who doesn't sculpt, only uses a chisel and hammer to free the statue inside a block of stone that was simply waiting for him to free it. ;D

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      6 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you! I am planning to add more tips soon. Happy shooting! :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      6 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for interestingly written tips to keep in mind as I use my camera more this fall!

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