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Composition, Lesson 2: The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a very general photographic guideline that suggests dividing a photo into horizontal and vertical thirds, then composing to put the critical elements of the photograph at the intersection of the imaginary thirds. Look at the example below:

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds concept is illustrated in the photo by the grid lines and the placement of the model within the compositional framework. Putting the subject or important elements of the subject near the intersection of these grid lines helps to lead the viewer's eye through the frame and creates an aesthetically strong image. The placement need not be exact.

Rule of Thirds Example 2

In the above image, the photographic elements are not at the exact intersection, but the eye is still lead through the frame and the composition is effective (though helped by the strong diagonal lineof the model's back). There is yet another example below:

As with all rules, the Rule of Thirds can and should be broken when required. An example would be when photographing strongly symetrical subjects, such as in the photos below:

Breaking the Rule Example 1

Breaking the Rule 2

Nevertheless, the Rule of Thirds can be a very effective compositional tool when used correctly. It can emphasize action:

Rule of Thirds - Action

And it can help lead the eye to the critical elements of the photograph:

Rule of Thirds - Critical Elements


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