The rule of thirds is one the basic photography rules every photographer should know. The rule of thirds is a composition rule that helps to make an image more pleasing to the eye. The idea is that you want your subject in either the right or left thirds of the image.
To illustrate let's divide an image up with 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines. Your subject should be positioned along where the lines meet. Look at the photo below, notice how the person in the photo is lined up with the intersecting lines. He is off center, this is done to make the photo look natural. It looks natural because the 4 points where the lines intersect are the strongest focal points of an image. You want the viewer to focus on the most important part of the photo, using the rule of thirds helps you to do that.
The principal is very versatile and used in many forms of photography. You can apply it by mentally thinking what are the important elements of this photo and lining them up on either the left or right side of your view finder.
If you're having trouble visualizing this, most cameras allow you to put grid lines in your view finder. You can use that to help line up your photos. Take a prop or a willing friend outside to practice with. Like everything else, you will learn it in time. Once you have it mastered you can manipulate it to your advantage.
Like I mentioned earlier not every image has to follow this, it's not a hard rule. There can be an image where the subject is close to the line but not right on it. Or the subject could be placed in the upper or lower third of the photo. The photo below still follows the rule of thirds loosely because the face is lined up with the focal points. The other more interesting part the guitar, however, is mostly centered but at an angle. Because both are still off center the photo keeps with the rule of thirds.
There are times when you may have your subject displayed in the middle of the photo. Sometimes your vision will work better without the use of the rule. Just because the rule of thumb is to keep the subject in the 3rds doesn't mean you have to. In the image below the subject is framed in the center of the photo. This does not follow the rule of thirds because she falls in the center of the photo. Even though parts of her fall out of center the important parts (main body and face) are centered.
Have any photos that use the Rule of Thirds? Share them in the comments below.
Ashley is a Virginia based photographer living her dreams of shooting concerts & interesting people. When she's not shooting or writing for the blog you can find her curled up with a good book and a latte (coffee keeps her going).