"Sharing life's adventures through photography"

The Rule Of Thirds

In photography there is a rule called "The Rule Of Thirds" which is not actually a rule but a suggestive guideline as to where to place the center of interest or the main subject in the composition to create a more pleasing image.

As you can see in the following grid, the graphic is divided into thirds. Where the horizontal and verical lines intersect and cross is commonly referred to by many photographers as the "crash point" or "power point." I seldom have a subject or center of interest fall in the vicinity of those intersections, but in shooting landscapes, the horizon line almost always falls along the lower or upper third line depending upon whether the sky or ground is more interesting.

Rule of Thirds grid - Picture #grid-3
Rule of Thirds grid

In the photograph below of Little Sable Lighthouse, you can see how the horizon line of Lake Michigan is close to the bottom third imaginary line and the lighthouse is approximately along the right vertical line.

Little Sable Lighthouse, MI. - Picture #12-5617
Little Sable Lighthouse along Lake Michigan in Michigan.

I could have placed the lighthouse dead center in the picture, but I believe being off to the side like it is, provides a much more pleasing and interesting composition.

Like I said above at the beginning of this page, the "Rule of Thirds" is just a suggestive guideline and should be broken whenever necessary to improve the composition. A good case in point is when photographing reflections in water such as in the following photograph. Here, the horizon line where the trees meet the water, is almost dead center across the middle of the picture. If I had tilted the camera upward or downward to place the horizon on the one-third line, I would have lost the effectiveness of the reflection.

Moccasin Lake in the UP of MI. - Picture #13-1552
Autumn reflections in Moccasin Lake in Michigan's UP.

When you're out photographing, take lots of pictures with and without applying the rule of thirds, and then decide which ones you like the best. Pixels are cheap in this day and age compared to what it used to cost when shooting film.

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Last updated or revised on March 16, 2016.
Contents of this page copyright © Steve Margison 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.