The Rule Of Thirds: What Is It? How Do You Use It In Photography?

Composition, or what’s included in a photograph and where, is a big part of capturing creative photos. Composition can help make one photo of an object quite a bit different than another photo of the same thing. The rule of thirds is a guideline that helps photographers determine where to place that object.

What is the rule of thirds?

Imagine your image is divided into sections by a tic-tac-toe board like the grid here:

What is the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds simply suggests that you place your subject on one of the places that those lines intersect. So, instead of putting the subject where you’d place the Xs and Os in that game of tic-tac-toe, place the subject directly on the grid.

Using the rule of thirds means that the subject isn’t centered in the image, which is how many new photographers frame their shots. Instead, the main focal point is a bit off to one side.

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Why? Using the rule of thirds draws the viewer’s eye into the composition, instead of just glancing at the center. By placing the subject off center, you also embrace more blank space. The rule of thirds is also helpful for highlighting an interesting background. Off-centered subjects tend to convey more of a feeling of motion than centered ones.

How Do You Use The Rule Of ThirdsHow Do You Use The Rule Of Thirds?

So, the rule of thirds suggests placing the subject off center. But which of those intersecting lines should you use? That of course depends on what you’re photographing, but there’s a few things to consider to help you make the best choice.

If the subject is small, use an intersection of the grid. If the subject is largeor long, try placing it along one entire line.

If the subject is looking in a certain direction

If the subject is looking in a certain direction, leave the empty space in the same direction that they’re looking towards. So, if you are taking a portrait and the subject is looking towards the left, place them on that grid line on the right.

If the subject is moving, leave the empty space in the direction that they are moving in. This gives the subject a sense of moving forward, and allows the viewer to see a little of where they’re headed.