A brief guide to composing images using the Rule of Thirds
We’ve all happened across that perfect moment where everything just fits together. We capture the moment and move on. But on looking back at the image we find ourselves feeling somewhat deflated as the scene we photographed lacks the impact that made us take the photo in the first instance, it lacks good composition. Composition is a vital component to creating a visually interesting image and the rule of thirds is one of it’s tools. You don’t have to own an expensive DSLR; whatever camera you use, the rule of thirds can be applied to any image you take.
The rule of thirds is a guideline which many photographers use as an effective way of placing subject elements in the frame. It is a simple process to use and soon after applying it you will find that you automatically frame your images this way. For the rule of thirds to work we must visualise the diagram below in the frame/image.
This grid will help you place your subject and frame it within the image resulting in a pleasing photograph. You should place your subject where the lines intersect, more commonly on the right hand side, but you don’t have to live by it. You will often see, if a close up portrait is taken using a landscape format that the subject will intersect on on these lines and usually the eyes will be arranged on one of the intersections. Visually this looks better and if there is an interesting background behind the subject, this can be captured as well.
Landscape photographers will often use the rule of thirds. When composing an image of a landscape scene you should refrain from always framing the shot with the horizon line in the middle, this makes for a bog-standard image that can be quickly forgotten – of course there are exceptions. It is better to shoot using the rule of thirds and place the horizon on one of the imaginary horizontal lines, you’ll either have two thirds sky and one third land – which works well when shooting a particularly colourful sky – or two thirds land – use this if the sky lacks depth or when the land has very interesting subject matter.
Rather than being an exact science to taking great images, it is a guideline that we should use to make us think about how we compose our images. When using the rule of thirds, we stop and take in the scene, we compose with the rule of thirds, if it works then great. But if you feel the subject would be better centred then go for it. You have considered the options and used the composition you think works best rather than just pointing our camera and pressing click.