When we grab our phone or camera to take a quick photograph of our children, the most natural instinct is to photograph your child in the center of the frame and have an even amount of background either side. But you may have noticed that positioning your child (or subject) elsewhere in the frame can make your photograph a little more interesting. This is where compositional guidelines like ‘the rule of thirds’ come into play. The rule of thirds in photography can help bring balance to your images, and give them better composition.
What is the rule of thirds?
The rule of thirds is actually very simple. Imagine that your photograph is divided into nine equal parts – with two lines running horizontally across your image, and two running vertically down it (as you can see in the photograph above). In fact, you might find that your camera or phone automatically brings this grid up on the screen when you go to take a photograph, in which case you don’t need to imagine it at all!
The rule of thirds says that the most important element of your photograph – in this case my daughter, should be placed along the gridlines, and for even stronger composition at the points where the gridlines intersect.
Using The Rule of Thirds in Portraits
The first thing that we usually want a viewer to look at in a portrait is the subject’s face, and it’s natural that we are drawn to their eyes. In this case, try to position the eyes at one of the points where the lines intersect, or close by.
Using The Rule of Thirds In Other Photographs
The rule of thirds is not exclusive to portraits – it can be applied to any photograph.
When you’re next out on a walk or on holiday try it with landscapes. We often think we should position the horizon line in a landscape right in the middle of the photograph – nice and symmetrical. But moving your camera a little, and positioning the horizon line along one of the lines on your grid – it might create a much more interesting and satisfying photograph.
With other photographs, move around and experiment to see which composition is nicest. The good thing about digital cameras is that you try lots of different angles and compositions without any cost, and as you do you will start to see what you enjoy, and which work best for you.
And finally…Remember that rules are made to be broken
I hope this introduction to the rule of thirds has given you a new technique that you can experiment with to improve your photographs. One last thing to remember is that rules are made to be broken, and so you don’t need to feel that you should use the rule of thirds every time. If a photograph looks great to you, and doesn’t follow this guideline, don’t give it a second thought. Just enjoy it!
I’d love to hear how you get on with the rule of thirds – do let me know in the comments below.