Rule of Thirds In Photography : Definition and How to Use

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The rule of thirds is a powerful compositional guideline that has been used by photographers for centuries. It is a simple yet effective tool that helps to create balanced and visually appealing photos.

The rule of thirds is based on the idea of dividing an image into thirds horizontally and vertically, creating nine equal parts.

Rule of thirds
Rule of thirds

By placing the main subject of your photo along one of these lines or at the intersection of them, you can create a sense of balance and harmony in your image.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the rule of thirds, its origins, and how you can use it to improve your photography.

Rule of Thirds Definition

In photography, the rule of thirds is a compositional technique that involves dividing an image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, creating a grid of nine equal sections. This guideline suggests that placing the main subject of the image at one of the intersections or along one of the lines created by the grid can lead to a more visually pleasing and balanced composition.

Rule of thirds definition
Rule of thirds definition

The theory behind the rule is that by placing important elements of the composition along these lines or at their intersections, the photo will be more balanced and visually appealing.

The rule of thirds suggests that the main subject of the photo should be placed along one of these lines or at one of their intersections, rather than in the center of the frame, which can create a more dynamic and interesting image.

Additionally, the rule of thirds can also be used to align horizons, and other elements in the scene to create a sense of balance and harmony in the image.

Rule of thirds Horizon
Rule of thirds Horizon

It is one of the most widely used and well-known guidelines in photography, but it is not a hard and fast rule, but rather a guideline that can help photographers improve the composition of their photos.

How the Rule of Thirds works ?

  • To use the rule of thirds, imagine dividing your image into a 3×3 grid using two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.
  • The key elements of your composition should align with the grid lines or the points where the lines intersect.
  • For example, if you are taking a landscape photo, you might place the horizon along the top or bottom horizontal line, rather than in the center of the frame.
  • If you are taking a portrait, you might place the subject’s eyes along the top horizontal line, which is known as the “eye line.”
  • Another example is when taking a photo of a building, you can use the vertical lines of the grid to align the building and create a sense of balance and symmetry.
  • In case of action or movement in the scene, the rule of thirds suggests that you place the point of interest on one of the intersecting points of the grid, rather than in the center. This creates a sense of movement and direction in the image.
  • Using the rule of thirds also allows you to leave negative space in your composition, creating a sense of depth and leading the viewer’s eye through the image.
  • It is important to note that the rule of thirds is not a hard and fast rule and should be used as a guide, rather than a strict rule to follow in every image.
  • Experiment with different placements of your subjects, and see what works best for your image.
  • Keep in mind that there are no hard-and-fast rules in photography, and breaking the rule of thirds can often lead to more interesting and dynamic compositions.

Common Misconceptions about the Rule of Thirds

  1. The rule of thirds is not a hard and fast rule, but a guideline. It is not necessary to place all elements of the composition along the thirds lines or at their intersections. Sometimes, centering the subject can create a more powerful composition.
  2. Not all photos require the use of the rule of thirds. Some images, such as abstract or minimalist compositions, may not benefit from the use of this guideline.
  3. The rule of thirds is not the only compositional guideline. There are other guidelines such as the golden ratio, the diagonal method, and many more, that can also be used to improve composition.
  4. The rule of thirds is not just for still photography, it is also applied in videography, graphic design, painting and other forms of art.
  5. The rule of thirds is not a magic formula, it’s just one of the many tools that you can use to improve your composition skills. Understanding lighting, framing, and other technical aspects of photography are equally important.

How and when to break the rule of thirds ?

There are several situations where breaking the rule of thirds can lead to more interesting and dynamic compositions:

Centering the subject: Sometimes centering the subject can create a more powerful composition, particularly if the subject is symmetrical or if the background is unimportant.

Breaking the rule of thirds
Breaking the rule of thirds

Asymmetrical compositions: Breaking the rule of thirds can also be used to create asymmetrical compositions, which can be more dynamic and visually interesting.

Asymmetrical compositions not following the rule of thirds
Asymmetrical compositions

Minimalist compositions: In minimalist compositions, there is usually only one main subject, so placing it in the center of the frame can be more effective.

Minimalist

Abstract compositions: In abstract compositions, the rule of thirds may not apply, and the photographer should use their own artistic judgment to compose the image.

Abstract compositions

Action or movement: When capturing action or movement, the rule of thirds suggests that you place the point of interest off-center, however, sometimes you may want to capture the movement or action directly in the center to emphasize the movement

Action or movement

Ultimately, it is important to experiment with different placements of your subjects, and to use your own artistic judgment in applying the rule of thirds to your work. Remember that the most important thing is to create an image that is visually pleasing and emotionally evocative for the viewer

Examples of photographs that use the rule of thirds

Girl Portrait Using rule of thirds
Rule of thirds Candle photography
Rule of thirds Candle photography
Rule of thirds Balance
Rule of thirds Balance
Rule of thirds Portrait