Rule of thirds
When it comes to photography, the rule of thirds is applied in such a manner that you will be aligning the subject with the help of guidelines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line or allowing linear features in the image to flow from one section to the other. The rule of thirds is the most popular principle in photography composition. In most photography classes, this is probably the first principle which digital photographers will learn as it forms the base for capturing well-balanced and interesting shots.
What does rule of thirds state?
The rule of thirds states that – An image is most appealing to the eyes when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds (should be both vertically and horizontally).
It is interesting that the rule appears to be mathematical and can still be applied in photographs. Surprisingly, this rule works incredibly well. The rule of thirds makes the shots appear more engaging as it brings out the aesthetic features of the subject by:
· Creating a sense of balance
· Doesn’t make the image appear too static
· Adding a sense of complexity
· Hinders the image from appearing too busy.
Let us review a little history on rule of thirds:
The rule of thirds has been around for a long time and it can be traced back to the 1800’s. During this era, painting was the most popular form of art. The rule of thirds was known as golden mean especially when the Greeks were exploring the world and building extraordinary temples to please their gods.
Components of the Rule of Thirds
Without some certain elements, you will be applying another rule rather than the ‘rule of thirds’. The most important components of rule of thirds include:
- 9 Equal Boxes
- 4 Intersecting Points
- 2 Horizontal Lines
- 2 Vertical Lines
Rule of Thirds and Your Subject
In the rule of thirds, you should always place the important components of your subject or image at intersecting points. Your main objects may be people, buildings, animals and more. By doing so, your image will be well balanced and your viewers will easily move through your image. The rule of thirds is based off a subconscious movement throughout the image or artwork in such a way that the viewer’s eye pauses longer at one of the four intersecting corners rather than at other areas. For instance, the Modern dSLR cameras often show the grid view on the back display of ‘live mode’ camera. In addition, you can activate a similar grid using Adobe Light-room and Adobe Photoshop.
The theory behind rule of thirds is that by placing the points of interest in the intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced and the viewer of the image will engage with it naturally. From previous studies, it was proved that most viewer’s eyes will go to one of the intersection points rather than at the center of the shot. Therefore, when using the rule of thirds, you should always think about the important elements of the picture and try to position them near the lines or intersections. They don’t have to be perfectly aligned but should be close.
Examples of rule of thirds:
The rule of thirds is very flexible and it can be used on almost any object. Here are some good examples of where it can be used and how to apply it:
1. In landscape photos: In most cases photographers will position the horizon along the center of the frame. This will give the photo a ‘split into two’ feel. Instead you should place it along the horizontal lines. If there are interesting objects in the photo, you should try to place them along the intersecting lines or as close as possible since they will act as anchors from a natural point of view.
2. When capturing shots of people: It is always smart to place people off to one side of the frame as this shows the subject’s environment and ‘breathing space’. Without any doubt, we are usually drawn to people’s eyes hence they should be placed at the intersection lines of the rule of thirds. This will give the shot a vivid focal point.
3. Vertical objects: Let us say you want to take a shot on a lighthouse. The best way to go about this is by positioning the object at off-center of your frame.
4. Moving objects: In moving objects such as a rider on a horse or a biker, it is important to place them as normal as they appear while at the same time paying attention to the direction they are moving. You should always leave more space in front of them rather than behind.
How can we improve our photos?
The best and most efficient way for a beginner to improve the quality of the shots taken is by cropping. By using cropping software, we will be able to reposition the important objects in your photo. Software such as Photoshop and Light-room can come in handy as they have crop guide overlays which include the rule of thirds option. As you get better your need to crop photos in postproduction will decrease. Strive to get as much right in your viewfinder before you push the shutter release on your camera and your ability to see the world in terms of composition will greatly improve as well as the quality of your photos.
In very rare cases we will find an image in which we cannot apply rule of thirds. In such cases, we might give the photo a sense of balance without making the subject appear too static.
Breaking the Rule of Thirds
Rules are made to be broken. That’s what they say from where I come from. Just like other rules in photography, the rule of thirds will not apply in all situations. Therefore, by breaking it on some shots might results in a more eye-catching and interesting photo. But you should fully understand the rule of thirds before breaking it. This way you will be certain of what you are doing while trying to get a better composition. Try breaking the rules on some of the photos you have captured using the rule of thirds and compare the two.
Plan a day of shooting when you have a little free time, if you have only a little time available just work around you house. Find a subject that you have shot or want to shoot. Now as you start to work keep in mind the Rule of Thirds. If you are working with landscape try placing the horizon on the bottom third, top third and then just in the center of the frame. If you have a specific subject you are working with try moving the camera so that the subject falls on each line as well as intersecting lines of the Rule of Thirds. When you get back to your computer download the images and really take a close look at each one until you narrow the field of photos to one. Finally, ask yourself what makes this the best photo. Now you are not only using the Rule of Thirds but also learning how to apply it in a practical real world situation.
In the photo below you will notice that model Zeva has been placed on the left third of the frame. I also placed the rough building skyline on the top third of the frame creating a stronger composition. With regard to the bottom third being located near Zeva’s bottom and the top of the brick she was sitting on was just luck. As you get better at working with the Rule of Thirds you will find that utilizing two of the dividing lines strengthens you composition like in this example. I did break one Rule of Composition in this photo as Zeva is facing away from the negative space in the photo. I find this personally appealing and think it adds some tension to the otherwise beautiful scene. Some people would completely disagree and tell you that by breaking this rule I ruined an otherwise good photo. As stated above, break the rules while following them to suit your own taste. I would however recommend learning the rules before you start to try and break them.
Please come back next week for another video review and discussion.