The Rule of Thirds in Photography

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is a photo composition technique used to make images more engaging and attractive. When shooting a picture with your camera or smartphone, it is a good concept to keep in mind. If you take a course in photography, it will be one of the first things you will learn.

The concept is pretty simple. Perhaps thinking of what NOT to do will drive home the point. Simply, do NOT put the subject of the photo in the very center of the frame! Think of the image frame as broken into a 3 x 3 grid of boxes. You want to place the subject of the photo ON one or two of these lines. That’s it in a nutshell.

Note that the four places where the lines intersect are the “most interesting” spots for your subject.

Here are some examples…

The horizon is in the lower third — a good rule of thumb for landscape shots.

Or put the horizon in the upper third. We are offset to the left…

Tower on left vertical, center of buildings on lower horizontal line…

No need to be exact — just close enough.

3×3 Overlay on Your Camera

Some cameras and smartphones have a setting that can overlay the grid on your ‘viewfinder’ to make it even easier to set up the shot. My Samsung Galaxy S7 (okay, it’s a bit long in the tooth) has an option, called ‘Grid Lines’ …

Here’s how it looks when taking a picture (the lines don’t appear in the actual photo). Hard to see here but look closely…


Breaking the Rules

Actually think of this “rule” as a guide. There are times to break the rule! Traditional portrait shots (people) are one example. But for casual picture taking, you’ll probably be happier with the rule of thirds.

Photo Editing

If you have some photos that are centered you can always do some cropping and get the desired effect. In fact, that’s exactly what I did in the examples on this page. I plead guilty!!

— Vince D.