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The Camera in My Head - Photography Tips Series #4 - The Rule of Thirds

Updated on February 11, 2015

The Rule of Thirds

I remember showing some of my photographs to a friend who was a professional photographer. He commented on some of the lighting, framing, composition and that he liked it that I even followed the "rule of thirds"...

I asked him what that meant. He explained that if you imagine a tic-tac-toe grid It is best if the focal point is in one of the outer sections, rather than directly in the center.

Of course there will be times when a center shot is fine, and even required... (like a passport photo!) but most of the time it is more artistic and interesting to use the "rule of thirds."

Take a look at the following examples and see if you can notice the sections of the photograph. You will notice that sometimes I use the "rule of thirds" even within the "third" segment.

Examples of the "Rule of Thirds" in Photography

Normandy, France
Normandy, France | Source
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA | Source
Point du Hoc, Normandy, France
Point du Hoc, Normandy, France | Source
Lady Butterfly on Echinecea flower, Hannibal, MO
Lady Butterfly on Echinecea flower, Hannibal, MO | Source
Harvey questioning my existence.
Harvey questioning my existence. | Source
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium | Source
Half Dome, Yosemite, CA
Half Dome, Yosemite, CA | Source
Dragon fly, Salt Lake City, UT
Dragon fly, Salt Lake City, UT | Source
Arches National Park
Arches National Park | Source
Christus, Salt Lake City LDS Temple visitor's center.
Christus, Salt Lake City LDS Temple visitor's center. | Source
From a castle view in France.
From a castle view in France. | Source
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA | Source
Alcatraz, CA
Alcatraz, CA | Source
Lighthouse on Pacific Coast
Lighthouse on Pacific Coast | Source
Draper, UT
Draper, UT | Source
LDS Temple, Oakland, CA
LDS Temple, Oakland, CA | Source
Cemetery, Salt Lake City, UT
Cemetery, Salt Lake City, UT | Source

Things to remember about the "rule of thirds"

You might notice that some of the focal points are at true third... and others are simply just off center. Both are obeying the "rule of thirds.": If the main focus, or the place where your eye is drawn is anywhere on the line, or within the outer areas of the picture, you have obeyed the "rule of thirds."

When to break the "rule of thirds"

There are times when symmetry and geometric design require us to break the rule of thirds. In these cases, a photograph can be more effective with a center focal point.

Don't let yourself be limited by that, though. Even a symmetrical design can look beautiful and interesting if the angle is moved a little bit. Experiment. Take lots of shots. Look at lighting and shadows. In this digital age, it doesn't cost more to try different things...

Here are some examples of geometric shapes that caught my interest... See if I followed the rule of thirds, or if I threw the rule book out the window!

Examples of lovely symmetry and geometric shapes of interest

Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux, France | Source
Castle bell in France
Castle bell in France | Source
Interesting geometric shapes.
Interesting geometric shapes. | Source
Normandy, France
Normandy, France | Source
Dole Pineapple Farm, HI
Dole Pineapple Farm, HI | Source

Options to remember

If you happen to take a photograph and upon further review, would like it to be focused farther to one side or another. Fear not... that's an easy fix with digital photography.

Simply crop it!

You can easily move the center of the photograph to an area slightly away from the focal point. It's as simple as that.

Watch for my next segment about color and saturation vs black and white...

Some great sites to learn more about photography:

Explore. Shoot. Enjoy!

I'm interested in your thoughts...

Did you like this article? Did you like the photographs? Would you like to see more like this?

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    • Prepper Gal profile imageAUTHOR

      Lurlynn Potter 

      4 years ago from Spring City, UT

      Thanks Alan.

      BTW: The Christus photo shows up fine on my computer. I'm using Google Chrome. Could it be a problem with uploading so many pictures?

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Some good pointers again, Lurlynn. The 'rule of thirds' has its uses.

      (PS Did you know the picture below the Salt Lake City Christus has gone awol? There's a little blue box in the middle of an open space)


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