Composition Basics: The Rule of Thirds
Understanding the ‘Rule of Thirds’ is a good way to begin playing with your composition technique. A technique that has long been used by artists, the Rule of Thirds can provide similar benefits in your photography.
Picture a tic-tac-toe grid (or better yet, draw one on a piece of paper). You will notice that you have nine box areas. Now circle the four center crossing lines in the center (they are the four points on the center box). By placing your subject in any of the points where the lines cross, you will be able to create a heightened dramatic effect and draw the eye to that area.
You’ll see that your subject will be off center but will better command attention than had you simply shot a standard centered picture.
Before you apply the rule of thirds, consider:
· What do I want to highlight?
· Is there anything in the background of interest?
· What story do I wish to tell?
Spending a few moments to ‘think from the end’ will help you decide how to position your subject and whether or not to use any secondary subjects.
Placing the object of attention on any of those four lines, either vertically or horizontally aligned, is what makes it fit the rule of thirds. It is not necessary, as the quoted description suggests, that the object be on one of the points where the lines cross (which suggests it must be offset both horizontally and vertically from center). One offset is often enough, and is very commonly done (but both is okay too!).
Originally Posted by cameraland
I use the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Mean, or something like them most of the time. Getting the subject off center is the main idea. But as was recently pointed out on this forum, there are of times where just filling the screen with the subject, or even placing them dead center works quite well. If you missed it, you should see these fantastic shots:
Of course many of those images are in fact good implementations of the Rule of Thirds. I didn't count how many to see what the percentage was, but it's pretty high.
Originally Posted by Jim Strutz
"Of course many of those images are in fact good implementations of the Rule of Thirds."
Yes, that is true. It is surprising how often this simple rule works out well. But as with all rules of art, there are always exceptions.
That is very true. The problem is that with any of them, whether they use that particular "rule" or not, one can always wonder if it could or would have been better, worse, or just different if the opposite had been done.
Originally Posted by Jim Strutz
It is sometimes a matter of artistic license, where the creator has the option; but sometimes it's a matter of that is what happened (whether by plan or not), and it just doesn't work out trying to frame the image otherwise!
Another problem that I find with using images such as those shown as examples is that they are poor examples of a given technique if they are overwhelming due to something unrelated. For example, beautiful birds, flowers, women, children... and probably two dozen other objects which tend to make attractive images no matter how they are framed, are poor examples for teaching framing. Examples using some humdrum boring object are vastly more effective.
It happens that, while not everyone learns the same way, I am one who learns a great deal from studying other people's photography to look for techniques and types of style. I don't go looking for photographs of wonderful objects, I go looking for wonderful photographs that required arcane style or technique because the object were pedestrian.