Use the Rule of Thirds


How can I take more powerful photos?


This question was answered on November 3, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

When taking pictures dont center your subject! I know that might seem completely backwards, but its a common mantra called the rule of thirds Okay, the composition police arent going to come knocking on your door if you break this rule, but you could be taking much more visually compelling pictures.

When most people shoot an image, they stick the subject smack dab in the center.

Sure, sometimes it can't be avoidedmaybe you have a subject that fills the frame and centered is really the only way to go You may also run across a composition where anything but centered wouldn't look right It happens, but not usually.

I've found that at least 90% o the time I can get a better image by moving the subject off center Just how much off centerand in what directionis the trick.

There is a compositional rule known as the "Rule Of Thirds" Basically, it says to mentally take your viewfinder and divide it up into thirdsboth horizontal and vertical Where the lines intersect are the "power spots" The rule of thirds says to put the subject of your picture in one of these power spots.

Even if the subject doesn't look right placed smack dab at an intersection, try to keep it along on one of the lines For example, if you have a landscape photo, try keeping the horizon either on the top or bottom linedon't run it right through the center of the image.

In my experience, this technique is a solid foundation for composition It's where I start every time I look though the viewfinder In fact, once you do it long enough, you'll find your compositions will become as much instinct as thought You'll simply wiggle the scene around in the viewfinder until the comp feels right.

For example, in this shot the lady bug is close to an intersection and lies along one of the lines It's not exactly on the mark, but this is generally what happens You try it various ways, and end up close to an intersection or line.

OK, I want to stress that the Rule of Thirds isn't a hard and fast rule Sometimes elements in the photo simply don't lend themselves to a textbook "Rule of Thirds" composition So, I fiddle around with it as much as possible Bottom line: use it for a starting point and then adjust as needed If you're shooting digital, taking the picture is free, so try it several ways.

Finally, when using the rule of thirds, pay careful attention to the rest of the image You may find that you need to change the camera position to make the composition balance better Just sticking a subject on a random intersection doesn't guarantee a great photo.

The trick is to use everything in the photo to add to the composition Try all 4 intersections - you'll probably find that one will jump out at ya! Cheers!

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Posted by Chad of Data Doctors on November 3, 2006