26 June 2011

Rule of Thirds

Susan Brannon

The rule of thirds helps you to produce better images. It is something most people learn in beginning photography classes and is a useful rule to remember when framing your subject!  Of course, rules can be broken, but if you break this rule, remember the rule and know why you are breaking it!

This rule is actually very simple.

1)    Take your frame and divide it into 9 equal squares like this:

2)      Now take the intersections of the lines as your points of focus:

Also take the lines as a point of interest.  Studies show that our eyes naturally go to one of the intersection points, rather than the center of the shot.

3)    Then imagine going in the direction of the “eye” lines that we call power points: by placing our subjects near the power points we can give a balance to a composition making it more engaging to the eye. Here are some examples:

Tree is to the left of the center, notice how the focal points are at the lines.
This tree is focused on the center.
The same tree is on the right line.

Which one do you think is best?  Which image draws your eye through the image?  Which one looks umm sort of boring? When you center your subject, it gives the impression that something is missing, the image is not complete.  The image with the same tree on the left gives more depth to the image, and draws you to different focal points.  The same tree on the right, does the same thing, only with fewer trees!

Avoid making the horizon in the center of the frame, putting it either 1/3 higher or 1/3 lower than the center.  You can use this rule either horizontal or vertical.  When doing this you want to create a visual path.  Here are a few examples:

Again, when you put the horizon in the center point of the image,
most of the subjects are missing the focal points, the image looks cut off and not complete.  Of course, when you put the horizon at the bottom 1/3 you will have more sky, creating a different feeling than when you focus the horizon at the upper 1/3 line.  In this case, it depends on what you want to represent.  The land and lines of the olive trees?  Or the vastness of the countryside with a broader sky?
When you look through your lens, look at the focal points and imagine the lines move your camera to see which angle you like best before taking that shot!

Related lessons:
Aperture and f/16 Rule
Shutter Speed Basics

Depth of Field
Focused Bracketing or Photo Stacking