What is the rule of thirds in photography?

rule of thirds in photography
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If you have stepped into the world photography, then you must have heard about the rule of thirds. It is a big deal, and if you don’t know exactly what it is and how it works, then things can get confusing for you.

This is because excellent images don’t only depend on lenses or cameras and require efforts with the settings as well.

So to capture the majestic photo, you need to focus on compositions as well. What is the rule of thirds in photography? It is all about twerking your scenes to make them more attractive.

It requires some time to become proficient at applying the rule of thirds, but after some practice, it becomes second nature, and you would be able to see a significant difference it brings about. If you want to make it even easier for you to understand and apply it to gain remarkable results, then scroll down and read our in-depth description of it.


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We have covered everything, from basic definitions to advance workings. Everything is simplified so that you can concentrate on the subject as well as compositions.

Let us begin by giving you a brief introduction on it:

What Is the Rule of Thirds in Photography?

The rule of thirds is one of the essential photography composition’s rules. It is a photography term that you cannot shake as it is vital for the perfect composition. We won’t say it is infallible because sometimes it can be broken.

It helps photographers to make or break their scene like by letting them separate the wheat from the chaff. This is why the rule of thirds is also a significant attribute for creating extraordinary images, just like the lens and the camera.

It is a composition tool that works along with other photography elements to make the image stand out from the crowd. It is a fundamental tool at your disposal, which is easy to master, as all it requires is an eye for detail and loads of practice.

Rule of thirds butterfly

It is especially helpful in scenes where the location being captured has been done to death, and composition is the only thing that can save it. So by using the rule of thirds, you can arrange the subject and objects with a newer perspective to make your image unique.

This is done by dividing your frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and then experimenting with placements within the nine equal rectangles.

Besides the rule of thirds, it is beneficial to learn about symmetry in photography. You can read more about on this pixpa.com post Symmetry In Photography – 7 Great Tips.

How is breaking the photograph into thirds helpful?

By breaking the picture into thirds helps you with the arrangements and leads to better composition. As it will lead to nine equal rectangles, you will have four intersection points which you can use to place your main subjects.

With the photograph divided, you can change the composition in your head and then set it in on the digital camera. Luckily, with most modern mirrorless systems and DSLRs, you don’t even have to think as you have the option to set it on the LCD screen.

With the grid right before your eyes, you can easily alter the photographic composition in the best way possible. Don’t worry; these dividing lines won’t become a part of your photo and are just visible on the LCD for helping purpose.

Remember, the essential elements of the rule of thirds are the four intersection points, and they must be used for placing the points of interest or main subjects in your scene, or else the rule of thirds will fail to serve its purpose!.

Rule of thirds butterflies

Why does it matter so much?

Well, the rule of thirds can be used in two ways, and both of them matter as they lead to capturing viewer’s attention. You can use it for both landscape and portrait photography.

When shooting location (landscapes), it will matter because it will help you place the horizon on the two-thirds line. So whether your image holds one-third sky and two-thirds landscape or it contains one-third landscape, and the two-thirds sky is decided via Rule of thirds.

When shooting a subject (portrait), it will matter because it will help you to determine which intersection should the subject be placed. This leads to the creation of more interest as the subject is kept out of the center.

So summing it up, the rule of third balances the relationship between interesting elements and negative space, thus giving the scene an optimal composition.

If at any point you prefer video to reading, please enjoy Orsi Stekler’s tutorial about the rule of thirds, it is very illuminating:

What are Points of Interest, and why are they so important?

As mentioned above, the intersecting points of the dividing lines are focal. These are the places where Points of interest should be placed. Now the question is, what are these points of interest and why are they important.

The answer is that most images have one or a few specific points of interest which hold power to draw attention; for example, humans have eyes as strong interest points.

So when applying the rule of thirds of photography, points of interest become essential compositional elements and should be placed at the focal points. Even for landscape shots, the theory remains the same as there would be some elements present at the location, which will be most prominent.

And by placing these elements at the right intersection will help your photo become more balanced. So Points of interest are indeed vital as they help in creating more energy, tension, and enthusiasm. They will result in the viewer’s eyes subconsciously falling on these points, giving your image a more dramatic look.

To make a great addition to this post, I am inviting you for a 7 minutes read Beginners Guide to Rule of Thirds in Photography by Gurpreet Singh on pixpa.com

Breaking the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the most fundamental composition tools and is very easy to use. It is something that the beginners are told to grasp on tightly so that they can learn it fast. But as we mentioned earlier, it isn’t infallible; that is why don’t grasp on it too tightly and make it a necessary obligation.

It is easy to pick up, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it every single time. It is the most common composition element that is overused and abused because photographers are unwilling to break it.

Well, the truth is, rules have to be broken at times, and this is precisely the case with the rule of thirds.

Sometimes circumstances allow you to break the rule of thirds because breaking it reflects a more practical choice and meets the purpose better. There are examples of photographs that have won awards while breaking the rule of thirds at the same time.

Many pictures have subject placed smack-bang in the center, and yet they succeed in grabbing attention. The reason behind it is that the concept of image and content takes precedence over composition and outweigh the rule of thirds.

As composition is only there to boost the photos if the content is lacking, the rule of thirds cannot be applied when content is there!

But whatever the case, rule or no rule, you have to learn it because to break it you first need to know when and how to use it!

I hope this article resolves all your queries, and the information provided helps you in your photography adventure. You can use the rule of thirds to create exceptional images with the perfect composition.

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Author: condruzmf

In love with photography!

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