Sunday, August 2, 2009

One Rule You Need To Know Before Breaking!

While I prefer not too think about composition “Rules” when I shoot, knowing the basics is important. Today I will cover one of the most basic compositional techniques, known as the Rule Of Thirds.

Rule of what?
Basically, the rules of thirds is based on how your eye naturally scans an image. History has shown that there are areas of an image the human eye is drawn to naturally, so placing a point of interest in these areas can make your photographs more compelling.
Draw a grid over your image, dividing it in to 9 equal parts, 3 equal parts vertically, and 3 equal parts horizontally. The area where the horizontal lines cross the vertical lines are areas the human eye is naturally drawn to, so the rule of thirds suggest that a focal point of your image be located at one of these intersections.
When photographing a landscape horizon, align the top grid line to the horizon to highlight the foreground, like this image above.When photographing a landscape horizon, use the bottom grid line to line up the horizon to make the sky the focal point.

Quick Tip:
Some cameras will display the rule of thirds grid right on the LCD screen so that the photographer can line up their shot, relying less on cropping in post editing.

Rule of Not Thirds?
One variation to this rule involves the application of the “Golden Ratio”. Instead of dividing the image into 9 equal parts when making the grid, a ratio of 1.61:1 is used to divide the image and choose the focal point. The concept of the “Golden Ratio” is far too extensive to discuss in this blog but more information can be found here.
In this image, the grid is created using the "Golden Ratio". Notice the grid lines are slightly closer to center.Here is example of an image that was cropped to match the grid. This grid was also created using the "Golden Ratio".

As I’ve said before, the first thing one should do after learning an established method, is to forget it completely. Many times while I’m shooting, I ignore this technique, and let my eyes find my composition. I am surprised during post editing, when I find that I am following the Rule Of thirds without even knowing it.

For more information, tips, tricks, and techniques, visit some of my other blogs.
Examples of my work are available for sale at:


  1. really interesting , thanks for the post. Laura

  2. great post, this will be really helpful for people!

  3. Great post! Some good advice and clearly described and illustrated concepts.

    I remember one piece of advice I picked up - rules are there so you think about it before you break them.

    Works for me :)

  4. I used your suggestions and links for creating a light box, so that really does work.
    I think the closeup shots work best, focusing on only one part of the item for product shots ( I have yet to read my camera's instructions so I still get a lot of blurry pics using macro. Of course I get some good ones, too.
    Great info!

  5. This is a good post for everyone to keep in mind. The basics are alway important and the best place to start.
    I like yourself never really seem to be conscious of these things while shooting and just get things balanced to my eye. It seems that for some of us it comes naturally and perhaps for others the rules really help.
    My experience with others is that if one studies enough and keeps these basics in mind then it can come naturally in time as well.
    Great blog and fantastic photography