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Rule of the Thirds - Photography rules

Updated on April 8, 2013

Rule of the Thirds

The rule of the thirds is a popular concept used by photographers to divide an image into thirds using imaginary lines; it is divided in nine imaginary sections.

It’s used to improve the balance and composition of your image. Important elements in your photograph should be placed along these lines and most effectively at the intersections. When you place an image at the centre it looks static but when you apply this rule it creates more interest and a sense of dynamism or ‘liveliness’.

As you are taking an image you will have created these lines and intersections in you viewfinder in order to compose your photograph accordingly.

right:image placed at the center, left:applying the rule of the thirds
right:image placed at the center, left:applying the rule of the thirds | Source

The photograph above shows the intersections points in the rule of the thirds, the intersections are the strongest focal points. Your point of interest does not have to perfectly align at the point of intersection but can be placed in the lines which are the second strongest focal points, i.e avoid placing your subject in the middle, as shown on the image below.

When you have a single subject in your composition, the simple way is to place your image on the top left, bottom left, See the second image above. In instances where you have multiple subjects, you should place the subject with most emphasis on top right and the subject with less emphasis on the bottom right. This is mostly used to bring about emotions since human beings tend to tilt their head up towards on their right side when imagining a situation. Try to be keen in movies and you will find much of this application.

aligning multiple images
aligning multiple images | Source

Breaking the ‘rules’’

In photography it is always wise to ask yourself what you want to emphasize most in your image, placing these elements at the lines or intersections may bring out the intended moods but sometimes it is not possible, you may realize that if you apply this rule some of your most important elements do not come out clearly or are eliminated completely. Sometimes it might just look right to place your subject at the center.

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