When To Use Rule Of Thirds

By | 22/10/2022

The dominion of thirds is a handy simply imperfect composition tool for photography. Here’s everything you need to know about when – and when not – to use it.

Be sure to check out our other manufactures on limerick, including leading lines in photography and using frames.

What is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is a style of helping you to compose a photograph. It can guide how you identify the master elements of your composition in the frame, so your photograph feels well counterbalanced and pleasing to the middle. You can apply information technology no matter what you lot’re photographing, from macro photography to portraits.

To be clear, though, information technology
isn’t
a dominion.

Call back of the rule of thirds every bit only i choice to consider when you’re working on your composition. The key is that by understanding it, you’ll know when it volition assist y’all and when a unlike approach volition work better.

How exercise yous use the rule of thirds?

The basic idea is to divide your frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically – hence the proper name. You’ll probably find that your camera has a setting to overlay a rule of thirds grid on your viewfinder or the screen, if you’re using live view.

Dividing the frame up this way gives you a nine-part filigree simply it’southward non the parts between the lines we’re interested in – it’south the lines themselves.

Rule of thirds grid

When composing your photograph, yous place the point of interest on 1 of the lines or at the where two lines intersect. This technique also works with other important elements of your composition that aren’t your main subject field but are key to how the prototype feels, such as the horizon in landscape photography.

If yous’re using a shallow depth of field, it tin besides help you to make up one’s mind where your focal bespeak should exist, to ensure the near interesting office of the scene is in focus.

Dominion of thirds examples

Many times, the dominion of thirds will give yous a pleasing composition. My own photography focuses on architecture and urban spaces, and I often find the rule of thirds helpful for positioning converging lines in the frame. In this image of the Riverwalk apartment edifice in London, I’ve placed the convergence indicate where the upper horizontal line and right vertical line come across.

Picture of the Riverwalk apartment building showing rule of thirds composition

When yous have a person moving through the frame, every bit in the shot below, putting them on the left or right 3rd (depending which fashion they’re travelling) gives them space in the frame to motility into. This works with birds and other wildlife as well.

Example of rule of thirds, showing two people walking upstairs

The dominion of thirds tin can assistance you decide where to put a dividing line in the image. In this shot of the Can of Ham building in London, I positioned the correct edge of the building on the right tertiary, giving a nice residue between the mirrored front and the side of the building.

The dominion tin also be effective when yous have a single, clear subject surrounded by negative infinite. Here, the building is ‘looking’ to the right, then that’s where the empty space feels natural. This likewise applies when taking photos of people looking to the left or right.

Photo showing rule of thirds and negative space

In the shot beneath of 22 Bishopsgate, the row of vents feels natural on the upper third line. In the photo of the Riverbank building, the right edge aligns with the right third line, giving just the correct amount of space betwixt the building and the side of the frame.

Rule of thirds - Riverbank small

Why the dominion is not a rule

A rule is only a dominion if information technology always works. Enough of times, the rule of thirds simply doesn’t. I obvious example is when you accept a symmetrical subject.

Photograph of a frost covered tree in Bush Park, London

I took this shot of a frosty tree in one of my local parks. There’due south nothing to be gained hither past thinking nigh thirds. Putting the line of mist on the lower third would have resulted in one third of a frame of grass. Similarly, with nix going on in the sky, in that location’southward no do good to placing the top of the tree on the upper third line.

Instead, this symmetrical composition just works. The central tree has a beautiful residual of its own, with a near equal spread of branches on both sides, combined with the placing of the ii trees in the background.

Don’t permit people tell yous that you tin can’t put your subject smack in the eye of the frame. It works with symmetry.

In this ‘look-upward’ photograph, it was important that each of the four principal buildings had similar prominence, otherwise information technology gives the awareness that the most prominent buildings are going to fall on acme of you lot. I avoided this by placing the convergence indicate in the middle of the frame. Any endeavor to move information technology towards one or other of the thirds gave likewise much weight to some buildings and not enough to the others.

Photograph of collection of skyscrapers in London, looking straight up from beneath them

The strong repeating pattern in this detail of the US Embassy makes the rule of thirds redundant. There is a natural order to this shot that the rule of thirds wouldn’t improve.

Photo of part of the US Embassy in London

You’ll often hear people say that dividing an image in two – for example, by putting the horizon forth the eye line – creates an unsettling tension in a photograph. The argument is that the encephalon cannot make up one’s mind which of the halves is dominant – hence a one-third/ii-thirds split feels more than natural.

Sometimes, though, that one-half-and-half split is exactly what y’all want. In the paradigm below (part of the tourist information centre nigh St Paul’s Cathedral), I wanted to emphasise the angularity and the stark contrast between light and shade. This would have been less powerful if the shadows had been limited to just the top 3rd.

Detail of the tourist information centre in St Pauls, London

Enjoying what you see?

Subscribe to our newsletter and go updates direct to your inbox.

We won’t spam yous and we’ll never pass your details to anyone else.

Mixing it up

Compositions doesn’t take to exist one matter or another. Here, I chose to position the horizon on the lower third but the post is primal. Placing it on a third line would have seriously unbalanced the composition.

Long exposure photograph of the sea and a marker post at West Wittering

Does the epitome orientation or attribute ratio thing?

Non particularly. As you’ll see from the examples I’ve posted above, you lot can use the dominion of thirds with landscape, portrait or square images.

Other than the square shots, the aspect ratio of the images above is typically three:two or 5:4, just in principle in that location’due south no reason y’all can’t use it with other mutual aspect ratios. Equally e’er, it’s about what works for your specific shot.

Don’t believe the critics who say yous have to use it…

A little knowledge can be a unsafe thing. If you’re new to any bailiwick, information technology can be comforting to latch onto ‘rules’ and apply them dogmatically. If y’all don’t follow the rule of thirds, you may become feedback from inexperienced photographers who are certain you’ve got your limerick wrong.

You’ll also hear this in a more subtle way, which is that y’all have to learn the rules earlier y’all can break them. Don’t take that literally, because information technology suggests you demand to take shot after shot with rule of thirds before you can graduate to something different. That’s a recipe for colorlessness, for you and your viewers.

Yous may likewise hear the claim that there are scientific explanations for the rule of thirds, to do with the way the human eye moves around an image. If someone says this to you, inquire for a link to the studies. If anything, the scientific evidence points in the other management.

…or let them tell you it’south simply for beginners

On the other manus, don’t be agape to use it when it’southward correct.

If you believe some articles – and the comments beneath them – you lot’d remember that ‘it’s only for beginners’. At that place is something in this, in the sense that when you’re starting out, it’south tempting to stick your subject field in the eye of the frame, whether it looks good there or non.

Learning well-nigh the rule of thirds may exist the first time new photographers think nearly creating an effective composition and discover the benefits of off-centre limerick. Merely equally you gain experience, y’all’ll find the concept still has its uses, when the circumstances are right.

Using the rule of thirds in postal service processing

If you’re non happy with the composition you got in-camera, cropping tin help you to notice a more harmonious epitome. Any editing plan you apply will take the option to crop using dominion of thirds, with on-screen guides to evidence the lines and intersection points. In Photoshop, dominion of thirds is i of several grid options you can choose.

Source: https://unfilteredphotography.com/what-is-rule-of-thirds-photography/