Master the Rule of Thirds Before You Break Them

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most essential composition principles of photography and it is something every photographer should know by heart. It is the foundation for balanced images and is also well known by other people in the field of visual arts such as painting and graphic design.

What exactly is this Rule of Thirds? It is composing your shot to make your subject off-center in the photograph. Imagine that your image is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically like so:

The lines or the areas where they intersect are ideally where your subject should be placed. Why? It is generally acknowledged that if you were to arrange the subject along these lines or intersections, then the composition conveys more energy and tension in the image rather than just placing the subject dead center. By using the Rule of Thirds, images with a horizon line would be composed in such a way that the horizon won't look like it is cutting the picture in half.

In the above comparison, the photo on the left has been composed with the horizon at the center of the frame. This makes the picture look divided in two and it does not look appealing. By extending the sky to fill up two thirds of the frame, such as the photo on the right, it gives the image a better sense of balance and space.

Once you know how to apply the Rule of Thirds to your shots, you can start experimenting on how to break this rule. After all, photography is an art and there are no definite rules for art.

Usually, subjects occupy one third or two thirds of the frame, either horizontally or vertically. This piano shot pushes that rule by how it has been cropped. The piano keys are at least one fourth of the frame and the rest of area below is negative space. However, this composition makes the shot appear more dramatic rather than if the keys were conventionally situated on a third of the frame.

Use the Rule of Thirds as a guide as you compose your shots. It will greatly help give your images a sense of balance and order. Your subject should preferably be arranged in-camera but if not, you can crop the shot in post processing. However, do not let this rule stop you from playing around and being creative with composition.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010 at 3:46 pm and is filed under Articles, Photography Basics, Photography Techniques. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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