Rule of thirds in Photography: How to use it

Rule of thirds in Photography

If you didn’t hear about the rule of thirds, you are lucky to arrive here 😉Technical settings of your camera are not enough to get good photos. Of course, it’s important to know how to set up your camera but when you start with photography you could forget that photography is something more than a technical thing.

There is a famous phrase in photography, that not is the camera that makes the photo, it’s the photographer. It can sound like a camera it’s not important, but yes… the camera it’s one of the main, the phrase just tells you that it is more important your eye. And here is where appear the composition of your images and how the eye sees a scene.

The Rule of Thirds is the basic compositional rule that all photographers learn in the process of learning photography. It has a sense, it’s easy and help you to improve your compositions that after practice a little with this, you will follow these rules even without thinking. Also, and even more important, you will know when to break this rule to improve even more your photos.

What is the Rule of Thirds?

First of all, take these rules as guidelines and techniques that will help you in taking better photographs.

So, what is the Rule of Thirds?

The basic of it is simple. Divide your image into proportional thirds, horizontal and vertical, so you will get 9 frames in your images. These lines will tell you where you should compose the lines of the scene in your pic.

A basic example, the horizon in landscape photography. When you are in front of a landscape, usually people compose with the horizon in the center. Instead of this, if you put in one of the two horizontal lines of the thirds, your photo will automatically focus on what you want to show.

rule of thirds landscape photography

In this example, the view is of the lavender field, and from it you guide the view to the horizon to the tree and sky. If you place the horizon in the center, the eye will not have a place where to look natural, so if you wanted to show the incredible sky, the horizon should be placed in the lower horizontal line.

These lines can change the way you look to an image, so choose first what is the main of your photo before thinking about composition. Once you look through the camera, you can use the grid view in most cameras (Live View or Viewfinder). Check the manual of your camera to know better where to find this option.

The Rule of Thirds in Use

Lets look an image to understand:

rule of thirds photography leading lines

In this case, you can see that the temple is positioned in the left vertical line, also the bridge and lake are located at the bottom horizontal line. Another interesting points it that the bridge starts at the point that this bottom horizontal line, merges with the right vertical line, this points are the stronger of our compositions and help the eye to focus in the areas of the image we want to show. In this example we can start looking at the bridge and automatically our vision will go around the bridge till the temple, with all the forest around that, will bring our eye again to the bridge.

framing photography

Lets look some images to make it more visual and easier to understand:

balance photography
depth of field photography

In the first example, you can see that the horizon is located down, so we see the full mountain cleaner, the sky and reflection act as a frame around the mountain more natural. In the second & third example, you can check examples where landscape it’s not the main, but the rule of thirds are a main to get great pics. Usually in portraits, the eye must be positioned in one of this strong points, where vertical and horizontal lines merge, so our photos will be richer than if we place in the center.

Should You Always Follow it?

As a genius say: break the rules once you know! The rule of thirds will help you to improve your photography, to get perfect compositions, and focus your photography on the subject you want to photograph. But there are situations that you just broke it to get the result you want. The horizon sometimes will be better to locate close to the border of the frame, a portrait in the center can help to focus on the face or much more examples as your creativity can imagine.

symmetry photography

So once you’ve learned (and understood) the Rule of Thirds, don’t turn crazy about that. The best to get good images, it’s practice and looks as much as you can from photographers that inspire you. Then you will pay attention to how they use (or not) these rules, and you will know how to do the photos you liked before know about this golden rule of photography. Also in the cinema or another visual art is used, so train your eye and enjoy photography and your trips. 

In our workshops & photo tours, we focus on locations in the best hours, but also about composition, so you can be learning and training your eye in the field. Enjoy while you travel, but also learn every day from professionals.

We also recommend reading our post about editing photos in Photoshop, where you will learn more tips to make better photos. Also, on youtube, you can find visual videos that will help you to understand better the rule of thirds.

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