Shoot like a Pro

The Rule of Thirds

Written by Gail Bjork

For centuries, photographers and artists have used Rule of Thirds to compose subjects and scenes. If you want to improve your composition, learn more about this easy to understand and use principle.

Rule of thirds exampleThe Rule of Thirds is a principle of composition used for centuries by painters, photographers and other artists. The underlying principle is quite easy to understand and apply.

When using the Rule of Thirds, the main subject is placed off center, away from the middle of the frame. As a result, photos often look more dynamic and interesting.

The rule envisions two horizontal and two vertical lines trisecting an image with four intersecting points.You place your main subject where the lines intersect rather than centered in the frame. Rule of Thirds grids

For example, placing the horizon on an upper or lower line helps create a well-composed landscape photo. For portraits, placing the person where lines intersect vertically produces a more compelling photo.

A Rule of Thirds grid is built into some digital cameras. It can be turned on and viewed on the LCD. The focusing screen on some Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras can be replaced with specialized screens, such as a Rule of Thirds grid, to aid with composition.

Though called a “rule,” the Rule of Thirds is actually just a guide for improving the composition of photos. It’s a good one, though, so try it along with other creative angles when taking shots. As the famous photographer Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photo, you make it.”

By the way, if you don’t achieve the look just right when using a camera, apply the Rule of Thirds when cropping an image.

Examples of the Rule of Thirds

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.