Let’s Talk Photography Ep.80 – The Rule of Thirds 👍👎 ? 1

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In this solo show Bart describes the so-called ‘Rule of Thirds’, and then teases apart what it’s good for, and more importantly, what it’s not good for. He argues in favour of its use as a tool in your proverbial tool box, but that you should be careful never let it constrain your creativity.

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Does the Rule Say?

Draw two horizontal lines on third of the way up from the bottom and down from the top. Then draw two vertical lines one third of the way in from the left and right. You now have a classic Rule of Thirds Grid.

You’ve probably seen this grid all over the place — both in-camera, and in photo editing apps.

Based on this grid, should do one or more of:

  1. Place the strongest horizontal element of your composition along one of the horizontal lines, e.g. the horizon.
  2. Place the strongest vertical element of your composition along one of the vertical lines.
  3. Place the focal point of your composition on one of the four points where the grid lines meet.
What is it?
  • Three guidelines that may help you create a more pleasing composition.
What is it NOT?
  • A rule!
  • An exact formula — Following the rule does not mean aligning the horizon on the line to the pixel, aligning the very centre of the tree trunk to a vertical line, or the exact centre of a flower to the crossing-point of two lines! Close really is close enough!
  • A universal truth — there are many pleasing composition that the guideline can lead you towards, but there are an infinity of other great possibilities!
  • Universally applicable — the more extreme your aspect ratio the less well the rule of thirds works. Does it really make sense to put a tree one third of the way in from the left on a panoramic shot?
My Thoughts
  • Make use of the rule of thirds as one of the arrows in your proverbial quiver
  • When you do use it, treat it as a guide, not a formula
  • Don’t ever let it feel like a constraint, if it does, ignore it and do something else, anything else that feels right!

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