Rule of Thirds: Be sure to BREAK this photography rule AFTER you learn it!

Would you like to improve your photography?  In a split second?  Then try “splitting” your frame.  Into thirds. It’s a tried-and-true photographic compositional technique called the “Rule of Thirds.”Photographer by Sheree Zielke

Once you’ve learned the rule, you should break it.  But only with intent.

Read on . . .

What is the Rule of Thirds and how do you use it in your photography?

Here’s a quick tutorial: 

  • Some cameras come equipped with this feature.  Press your camera’s DISPLAY button until a tic-tac-toe board comes up on the LCD screen.  This nine-square box is the Rule of Thirds tool that will help you immediately improve your photos.

  • In other cameras, you might find the Rule of Thirds feature buried in the camera’s FUNCTION, MENU, or SET-UP menus, disguised by the word, “GRID.”  If your camera offers this option as an ON/OFF feature, then turn it ON.  And leave it on.

  • Boring pictures usually have the subject smack dab in the middle of the frame.  If you move your subject (the main focus, the focal point) nearer to or on top of one of the intersecting points on the Rule of Thirds grid (the four corners of the center square), your picture will achieve dynamism it didn’t have before.  Instantly.

  • In contests, that include subjects like landscape, scenery, and sunsets, losing photos will commonly have a crooked horizon.  Keep your horizons straight by aligning them on the line in the lower portion of the Rule of Thirds grid. 

  • Poor portrait photographs generally have a subject’s eyes (human or animal) in the middle of the frame, or lower.  For strong impact, eyes should be aligned ABOVE the frame’s center point, in the upper third of the grid.  In group shots, place heads in this general area, too. Old man by Sheree Zielke

  • The grid’s vertical lines are perfect for lining up vertical objects like fence posts, trees, or edges of buildings.

    Now that you understand the concept, and you’ve practiced using the Rule of Thirds, go ahead and break the rule.  This is especially important when shooting round or roundish subjects; circular centers of interest are usually better smack dab in the middle of the frame – as long as they fill the frame, that is.Roman statue by Sheree Zielke

Knowing photography compositional rules is wonderful, but if you don’t employ them – they are useless.  Get out there, practice with the Rule of Thirds, even if that means taking some awful shots.

After a while, your photographs will impress the most critical critic.  Even you!

Sheree Zielke

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