Monday, May 2, 2011

Composing Photos-The Rule Of Thirds

You don't need an expensive camera to shoot like a professional photographer. Learn why in my next several posts on photo composition.

There’s only rule in photography - there are no rules. But there are a number of composition guidelines which can be used to enhance the impact of a scene. Most guidelines are referred to as rules. I will do the same in my posts so you have a complete understanding of each of the major “rules” or guidelines.


Using the Rules of Thirds
These guidelines will help you take more compelling photographs. They give a natural balance, draw attention to the important parts of the scene, or lead the viewer's eye through the image.
These guidelines take your photographs from snapshot quality to professional looking images. I will discuss these guidelines over my next several posts.

Using the Rules of Thirds

Learn the guidelines (rules) and why they are important, and then learn when to break them. We'll discuss both the rules and how to look at those rules as guidelines. I'll share each rule in one post. Once you have the rules down pat, start experimenting with breaking them.

Let's start with the Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds creates well balanced and interesting shots. Do you always have to use it? No. Rules are made to be broken and some of the best photographs break this one. But it’s best to know the whys of photographic composition before breaking them. That way, your photographs will be deliberate and effective.



The basic principle behind the Rule of Thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds, vertically and horizontally, so that you have 9 parts in your image.




Rule of Thirds grid


Some cameras allow you to set the viewfinder or LCD display into a Rule of Thirds format meaning that when you look through your viewfinder you see the above grid. If yours doesn’t, use your mind, while looking through your viewfinder, to mentally break your image down into thirds.

A good technique for landscape shots is to position horizons along one of the horizontal lines as I’ve done with the following shot. My horizon line is where the water meets the land. For added interest I've arranged the mountain peak along the left vertical Rule of Thirds guideline.

Using the Rules of Thirds


Theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or on the grid lines that your photo is more balanced. This enables the viewer to relate with your photograph more naturally. Studies show that when viewing images people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points rather than the center of the image. Using the Rule of Thirds works with this natural way of seeing an image.
  
Another Rule of Thirds Example:




Using the Rules of Thirds


In the above image I purposely placed the eyes of my subject between intersecting points. Eyes are a natural point of focus for a portrait. This gentleman's dark sunglasses give him a bit of mystery.

In the shot below I’ve placed the cowboy along a whole vertical line which means he is off center in the photo. This creates an additional point of interest. Placing him in the center of the frame may have resulted in a less interesting shot. I deliberately placed him on the left vertical line, rather than the right line, to add impact to the photo. My cowboy is mentally preparing himself for a big rodeo event.




Using the Rules of Thirds





Using the Rule of Thirds comes naturally to some photographers. For some it takes time and practice to become second nature.

In learning how to use the Rule of Thirds, and then knowing when to break it, the most important questions to ask yourself are:

  1. What are the main points of interest in my photo?
  2. Where am I placing those points?
  3. What am I trying to convey in my photo?
Remember that breaking the rule can result in striking images. After you learn it and it becomes second nature experiment with deliberately breaking it to see what you discover. In the photo below, I've centered the daisy. I liked the impact of the yellow in the center of my photo.


Breaking the Rule

Lastly, keep the Rule of Thirds in mind if you edit your photos in your post-production software. During post production you can use cropping to reframe images so that they fit within the rules if you feel cropping makes a more pleasing image.

Experiment with some of your old photos and see what impact editing might have on your photos. 



22 comments:

JIM said...

Your tips are really great for new photographers The rule of thirds is so important I use it on almost every shot.. other then when I break the rule lol.
By the way do you use lightroom? I was wondering it is a great program.


http://jpweddingphotograpy.blogspot.com/2011/05/collaboration-with-poetess-alpana.html

Sailor said...

Wow that was an excellent lesson! I have never heard of The Rule of Thirds and it is very interesting to learn. Thank yo for sharing your knowledge and experience. I am going to remember it when I take the next picture.

Laura said...

The rule of thirds is one thing I sort of understand and it does make a difference in some of my photos. With the daisy though, why is it breaking the rule? It's still in the thirds the way I view it, with the yellow centre in the centre of the tic-tac-toe board, so to speak.

Anyway, it's like the way I quilt: my only rule is that there are no real rules! "Quilt Police" be damned, LOL!

Blessings,
Laura
http://wentworthcountyquiltworks.blogspot.com/

Laura said...

Hmm, on second thought, I just answered my own question about the daisy breaking the rules, after I gave some thought as to how I might have framed that photograph.

I think it's looks very striking with the yellow centred too.

Blessings,
Laura

Alfandi said...

how true..taking an arts class usually will be helpful..

AleR said...

Well done!

Jessica Brant said...

Mari,

Your images are breath taking each and everyone of them... I wish I had an SLR but I think I mentioned that before...
xoxo
Jessica

Jenni said...

I look forward to each and every one of these tips you are giving. My daughter has decided she wants to be a photographer and right now I cannot afford a camera so I guess she will be learning cell phone camera techniques. This is so much more informative than you may know. Thank you.

Debra said...

Love the photos… white flower … the bird… blue mountains and water… the man in shades… the cowboy… and a timely lesson for my aspiring photographer friends and daughter. Passing this along.

Debra said...

Love the photos… white flower … the bird… blue mountains and water… the man in shades… the cowboy… and a timely lesson for my aspiring photographer friends and daughter. Passing this along.

FAYErydust said...

Woa~~ Thank you very much for that infos. :) I really wanted to be a photographer or to learn photography but I dunno where to start and seeing this makes me smile. Maybe this is the start for me :)

Sgt.Pepper said...

grazie per aver pubblicato questo post, è davvero molto utile!!!!
bravissima!!
a presto,
ciaoooooooooooo

Rimly said...

I love your pictures and the tips that you share. Beautiful.

cookingvarieties said...

hi mari, seeing your white daisy.. ican already feel and smell its fragrance- clarity in photo

David said...

Rule of thirds guidelines is really good and something I never thought about as I put the subject in the center of the viewfinder and took the photo. I'm already thinking about the rule as I imagine my next pics being taken, willmake my pics appear much better. Thanks for sharing!!

bod for tea said...

Thanks Mari, another fantastic lesson. I seemed to remember learning about the Rule of Thirds in an art class back the dim and distant past. (The creaking you can hear is my mind thinking WAY too early in the morning.) Love, love the photo of the cowboy by the way, I wonder if I look that way as I mentally prepare myself for another day in toddler-town?

Sgt.Pepper said...

grazie per aver pubblicato questo post, è davvero molto utile!!!!
bravissima!!
a presto,
ciaoooooooooooo

Debra said...

Love the photos… white flower … the bird… blue mountains and water… the man in shades… the cowboy… and a timely lesson for my aspiring photographer friends and daughter. Passing this along.

Jenni said...

I look forward to each and every one of these tips you are giving. My daughter has decided she wants to be a photographer and right now I cannot afford a camera so I guess she will be learning cell phone camera techniques. This is so much more informative than you may know. Thank you.

Alfandi said...

how true..taking an arts class usually will be helpful..

Sailor said...

Wow that was an excellent lesson! I have never heard of The Rule of Thirds and it is very interesting to learn. Thank yo for sharing your knowledge and experience. I am going to remember it when I take the next picture.

JIM said...

Your tips are really great for new photographers The rule of thirds is so important I use it on almost every shot.. other then when I break the rule lol.
By the way do you use lightroom? I was wondering it is a great program.


http://jpweddingphotograpy.blogspot.com/2011/05/collaboration-with-poetess-alpana.html