The Rule Of Thirds – 31 Days To Better Photography

Yesterday’s Topic: Histograms

“How to line things up better.”

“Framing a shot and knowing what to look for.”


These are answers to a questionnaire I put out before each workshop I teach where I ask for three things each student wants to learn during our time together. Proper composition comes up about 1/4 of the time in the answers. I always include some mention of the Rule Of Thirds because it is so basic and easy and helpful. Before I go further, it is by no means the only rule for composition and, as I mentioned in the start of this month-long marathon, all rules are made to be broken. Yet, it’s a great tool to help an untrained eye start improving composition.

The Rule Of Thirds is quite simple, actually. Divide the view as seen through the camera into three equal parts top to bottom and side to side. Place horizons, divisions in the image, eyes, or anything interesting on one of those newly drawn lines. Here’s what it looks like.

In this case, I considered the line between the dark lower clouds and the lighter, closer clouds a division. The thunderheads are a point of interest as well and I was able to fit them both into ‘crosshairs’ where the lines meet, which tends to be a pleasing spot for things. Check to see if your camera has a mode where the lines can be drawn on the scene when viewed through the viewfinder. This will help you get used to the look.

Take a scene as seen through your viewfinder, in this case a hurried shot of the sun setting behind an acacia tree on the Serengeti in Africa.

I managed to get the sun smack-dab in the middle of the shot. To me it looks, eh, at best. Now how about framing things differently?

What’s the different between the two? Let me add the overlay again.

Nothing interesting is going on at those lines or intersections. Heck, I didn’t even center the sun perfectly.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Another thing to look for are eyes. If your subject has eyes, put them on one of the meridians or at the intersections. The way we connect as humans is through our eyes. With animals too. It’s a no-brainer.

Lastly, if there is action, such as something moving through the frame, put it on one of the meridians and give it some place to go in the frame. Such as:

The Rule Of Thirds is a handy place to start when trying to figure out how to frame a scene. It’s also a great jumping off place for further experimentation.

Questions? Shoot them my way.

Tomorrow’s Topic: JPEG And RAW File Formats Can Coexist

31 Days To Better Photography is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

5 Replies to “The Rule Of Thirds – 31 Days To Better Photography”

  1. Terrance Smith

    As far as the rule of thirds: what I got out of this lesson is that you said Give them some where to go. never thought of that. Thanks

  2. Pingback: Get Close, Go Wide – 31+ Days To Better Photography | The Carey Adventures

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