It’s the principal rule of composition; the technique that easily and instantly improves the quality of your photos: The Rule of Thirds.
As its name suggests, the Rule of Thirds divides your frame into three sections vertically and horizontally. The dividing lines create four intersecting points and nine equal areas. It’s also called the Grid Rule because it creates a pattern much like a tic-tac-toe board.
These divisions make it easy to place your subject off-center, where our eyes naturally go. This is especially useful for travel photography. It may seem strange at first, but moving your subject slightly to the side, higher, or lower than the middle creates the balance your audience craves.
HOW TO USE THE RULE OF THIRDS
To begin, align your horizon with the bottom or top horizontal grid line. Next, place your subject along one of the four intersecting points. Think of these points as targets when setting up your shots. The more points you make use of, the more effective your photo will be.
Once you’ve placed your subject, take a look at the surroundings. There should only be action in about six of the nine equal areas, leaving one third of the photo as negative space.
To make this even easier, adjust your camera’s display settings to project a grid over your image as you shoot. This way, you can be more exact with your placement.
CAPTURING DEPTH & MOVEMENT
The Rule of Thirds can turn a portrait into a lifestyle photo and a landscape into a travel story. By placing your subject off-center, you free up space in your shot for other elements. Staggering objects between the foreground, middle ground, and background creates a more multi-dimensional photo.
When photographing stationary objects like buildings or trees, move around to capture new angles and add range. To create movement, consider the way eyes naturally absorb information. Like the direction we read, a photographer tells a story through left-to-right movement created using the Rule of Thirds. Your audience will appreciate a dynamic scene more than a photo filled with one, centered subject.
THE RULE WITHOUT LIMITS
As the saying goes, art knows no boundaries. The Rule of Thirds is a compositional guideline, but there are limitless ways to apply it. Though many photographers don’t like the idea of breaking the rule of thirds, it can be powerful when done dramatically. If you choose to break it, do it with purpose, like using a reflection to create perfect symmetry.
Using and experimenting with the Rule of Thirds is the quickest and easiest way to develop your photographer’s eye. This classic technique will not only help you capture compelling images, it can also help you evolve your style.