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The Rule of Thirds: Composition Techniques for Photos

Updated on June 17, 2017

Rule of Thirds - Example

Notice the use of rule of thirds.  The horizon is placed about 1/3 down from the picture, and the hotel is on that line.  It is located at the intersection of the two point.
Notice the use of rule of thirds. The horizon is placed about 1/3 down from the picture, and the hotel is on that line. It is located at the intersection of the two point. | Source

Rule of Thirds

When taking a photograph, it is extremely important to think about composition. The position of the subject, or certain parts of the subject, can have significant impacts on the image. One with poor composition can leave the photo bland and boring. Good composition can increase the quality. There are several ways to avoid the plague of the bland photograph.

Disclaimer: These are widely accepted general rules of practice. They may not always be followed, but generally is a good idea. Sometimes, rules are meant to be broken, but they are meant to be learned first.

The most widely used rule in photography is the rule of thirds. It is used in portrait photography, landscape photography, and nature photography.

The general premise is this. Take the frame of the photography, and split it into thirds both vertically and horizontally, so it looks like a tic-tac-toe board. Where the lines intersect are where a smaller subject should be, such as a bird, or a flower. This adds a bit of interest in the photograph.

If you are taking a picture of a person, the eyes should level with the top line of the tic-tac-toe board. This creates interest in the eyes, which are often referred to as the gateway to the soul.

If taking a landscape picture, put the horizon line on either the top of bottom of the board. If the line is one the top, the focus of the photograph will be more on the land. If the horizon line is on the bottom of the photograph, the focus will be on the sky. Choose carefully when placing the horizon line in the photography, as it will determine the subject.

When doing close-up or macro photography, it is wise to put the in focus part of the photograph on one of the intersection points of the board. That way, there is still some focus, even if the subject takes the whole frame.

Please feel free to comment, and leave pictures trying this technique!


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