Rule of Thirds in Photography: A Complete Guide

Rule of Thirds in Photography-Guide

Ever wondered why pro photographers get the best shot always or how they have such a picture-perfect photo every time? Well, it’s because they have the required knack and they follow certain guidelines of photography.

And that’s exactly what is the rule of thirds is. Like we have a rule of thumb based on experience, we have rule of thirds in photography. In photography, what matters is the end result but still, how you take it carries a lot.

And no doubt, before a photo is featured or posted on any platform, it goes through a lot of edits. In order to bring out top-grade photography, you just have to know the tricks and tips. Rule of thirds is just one of the tricks that make your photo stand out.

It is one of the most basic rules of composition in photography. By following the rule of thirds, you can nail your photography. And to know more, let’s dive deep-

What is rule of thirds?

What is rule of thirds

The Rule of Thirds, a common compositional technique that divides your frame into an equal, three-by-three grid with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines that intersect at four points.

The Rule of Thirds places your subject on the left-thirds or right-thirds of the frame, creating a satisfying composition. Each intersection is a potential point of interest; align your main subject along with other elements of the frame along these points to create a balanced, or visually interesting, image.

Many digital cameras, including smartphone cameras, come equipped with settings to display the Rule of Thirds grid on the screen. The idea is that an eccentric composition is more eye-pleasing and shows up more naturally than placing the subject right in the middle of the frame.

Not only that but it also spurs you to make creative use of negative space, the void areas around your subject.

Working method of rule of thirds

Working method of rule of thirds

The human eye gravitates toward points just beyond the middle of an image. These points are the halving points on a Rule of Thirds grid. In cultures where people read text from left to right, they also read images in the same way.

As a result, the underside right portion of an image is the most visually arresting while the upper left portion is most likely to be overlooked.

By default, the viewer looks at the intersection points. Placing points of interest at one among these points balances your image. This also creates more tension, energy, and interest within the photograph.

In a portrait, the topic or other main points like the subject’s eyes are important. Photographers Place these elements on one among the intersections.

Practicing photography with rule of thirds:

Nothing beats practice. Practicing and practical use of the rule of thirds will sharpen your skills. Let’s list out a few tips given by professionals below to give you the right direction-

  1. Practicing with the camera’s rule-of-thirds grid: “Turn it on so you can see what you’re doing as you’re doing it,” Plicanic suggests. “Eventually, you get a feel for it.”
  1. Take a rule-of-thirds field trip: “Go to a park or somewhere and try to take ten good pictures that follow the rule-of-thirds model,” says wedding photographer Anna Goellner. “The more you do it, the more it gets ingrained into your head.”
  2. Keep your eye on the eyes:“Choose where you want your point of focus to exist before you’re shooting. I’m always going for the eyes,” author and animal photographer Carli Davidson says.

So in short, we can say from the above points that –

  1. You should take multiple photos of identical subjects and put them on the various third lines.
  2. Then, photograph the topic dead center in the frame.
  3. Shoot plenty of photos. Later, take a glance at the images and decide which ones you like the best.
  4. Then show them to a photography mentor or friend you trust and ask them for their advice on which of them they like the best and why.

Applying rule of thirds in portrait

Rule of thirds in portrait

From the above portrait, we have already known that no human face is symmetrical, from celebrities to models all have their imperfections, but it is the skills of photographers that give out the best final picture.

And one of the best uses of rule of thirds is in getting a symmetrical version of portrait.  Below, a brief discussion on how to apply the rule of thirds in portrait is shown along with an example of portrait –

  1. Position the contents right or left eye on one of the upper two intersecting points.
  2. Position the shoulders of the content along the lower-thirds grid line, giving the object a natural appearance.
  3. Draw the viewers into the portrait by subtly angling the content toward the opposite empty quadrants in the grid.
  4. If you are shooting a horizontal image for print photography, make sure that there’s no critical information in the middle of the image.

Rule of thirds in landscape:

Rule of thirds in landscape

The Rule of Thirds brings focus and balance to most of the photography including your landscape shots.

Applying Rule of thirds in landscape –

  1. Create a way of expansiveness by positioning the horizon line along the lower thirds of the grid, drawing the viewer’s eye to the sky above.
  2. Position the horizon along the upper thirds to draw attention to the foreground to create a sense of proximity to the landscape.
  3. Place a stimulating natural feature like a mountain peak or flower on one of the four intersecting points to create a focal point.

Rule of thirds while editing:

The rule of thirds can also be applied when you are editing the photo that is when cropping or reframing your photo during post-processing.

Simply, turn the Rule of Thirds grid on in the editing software, adjust the horizontal and vertical skew of the given image in order that the lines align with the grid, and hit save. And you are done! Voila!

Why you should break the rule?

“Rules are made to break”. A very common quote that we all are familiar with, right? The same case applies to photography. There are few exceptional cases where rule of thirds will not work. That means you won’t achieve the optimum result applying the rule of thirds. What are those cases? Let’s take a look underneath-

  1. Force perspective on the frame:

Align characters where they shouldn’t be, hide the pictures in plain sight, make big things small and small things big, and put them almost dead center in the image.

  1. Fill the frame: 

Filling the frame is really interesting when there are parts of an image that aren’t necessarily fully in the frame, or when there’s a subject that’s very much in the foreground of the frame.

Suggested Article– Framing in Photography: A Complete Guide

  1. Ditch the grid for bolder shapes:

Trying a rule of three wedges, or a rule of three circles or rule of three blobs might as well do the job.

  1. Govern the depth in the frame:

Try three different levels of focus as a compositional tool. That means trying a different composition tool also gets the job done.

  1. Get a different shot at different angle:

Try to get multiple shots from different photography angles sometimes to get the job done aesthetically.

  1. Try using a different aspect ratio:

Go for different aspect ratio which means make an attempt to use different height and width ratio.

  1. Always fix issues in the post.

It is not possible to get back and capture a photo once it has been shot, so even later you can edit and fix it.

You can always opt for alternatives, however, learning to use the rule of thirds effectively before trying to break it is more effective- that way you can be sure you’re doing so in order to get a better composition, rather than just for the sake of it. ­­­­

Example of rule of thirds

The use of rule of thirds is very versatile and can be used anytime on any subject. Below is enlisted a killer example of rule of thirds-

Example of rule of thirds

A Few Drawbacks

Nothing is without drawbacks, right? So does the rule of thirds. The biggest drawback with the rule of thirds is that it doesn’t change even when the contents do. So, in simple language, it can be said that it doesn’t take into account the subject of photography.

It’s very much likely that you will be compromising the composition and excluding the important elements just to stick with the rule of thirds.

Wrapping Up

The rule of thirds is a wonderful compositional tool for quickly improving a photo and making it more pleasing to view. However, it’s not the “make or break” of a photo, by any stretch of the imagination.

Utilizing the rule of thirds is an essential composition technique that is able to add balance and harmony to the image. So, it is recommended to practice this by using the grid of the camera’s Live View.

Eventually, you’ll end up guiding the viewer’s eyes better and making the images even more engaging and eye-soothing. One suggestion that would be helpful at the end is to explore the composition.

Don’t only stick to one style of composition but also don’t disregard it either. When faced with a scene, try shooting it with and without the rule. In this way, you will be able to nail your photography, regardless of genre.