The Rule Of Thirds Made Simple

What is The Rule Of Thirds? Let me start off by saying this! There are no rules in landscape photography or any other type of photography / art for that matter. Rules have simply developed over time, not as rules, but more as guidelines and aids to help point artists towards things that work from a visual perspective. There is nobody on this earth who can tell us how we should frame and compose or images. Who makes the rules anyway?

The rule of thirds is one of the most simplistic and easy to learn facets of composition in both art and photography circles. This is usually the very first compositional rule / aid  that most artists learn very early in their journey. It works so well that many never actually manage or need to progress much further than this simply because it works so well. Being so basic and easy to apply, it has become universally accepted across the artworld because it I so hard to fault no matter how basic the image.

This rule of thirds states that for a pleasing composition the main subject in the frame must be placed on one of the thirds within the frame. Simply divide your frame into three lines, vertically and horizontally. Then simply place your subject on one of these lines. Yes, It is that simple!



It has become so popular that most camera manufacturers have even build a grid for this inside the eyepiece of the camera and on the live view screen to make it even easier to see / work out. Nine times out of 10 this technique delivers a really pleasing image particularly in minimalist style genres of photography.

If you can believe this, I’m actually going to simplify this even further for the beginner. Instead of imagining your frame divided into thirds, simply pick the centre point of your image and place your subject there. Then simply move you camera slightly up, down, right or left. Place your subject anywhere off that centre point and it will be hard for anyone to claim you haven’t used the rule of thirds in some form. Try it next time you pick up the camera and I bet you the result will be more please than just snapping the subject in the centre of the image.

So next time you think of the rule of thirds, just think of it as anything where the subject is placed slightly off centre. It really doesn’t have to be any more difficult than that!

Let me state again that this isn’t a rule which must be followed it is merely a helping piece of compositional advice. The old saying that rules are there to be broken still holds true! Once you have become comfortable with this, never be afraid to challenge it. A contradiction of advice, I know, but do you really want to be that photographer who never progressed any further than the first and only compositional rule they ever learnt? If I had a euro for every judge I heard advising that the horizon in landscape images should only ever sit on the thirds, I’d be rich. I agree, most times this helps but there are always exceptions to the rules so don’t be afraid to challenge them. Again, I repeat, who really has any right to make a rule about your photographs?

Keep It Simple – Keep It Off Centre (but not always)!! Until next time – thanks for reading…

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