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Rule of Thirds - Presented by Pixalo

Presented by Pixalo

We're influenced by The Rule Of Thirds (ROT) in many images pictures and paintings we look at, often without realizing it. What is it? Well it's basically a format for good composition used by artists and photographers. How it works is fairly simple, although there are two occasions as photographers when we can use it - the first being when we compose an image in the viewfinder - the second being when we crop a larger image, when we can often apply the ROT to achieve a more pleasing picture.

In practice you need to imagine your viewfinder or picture being divided into thirds equally along both it longest and shortest sides. If it's a aquare picture you still divide by thirds and it doesn't matter whether the picture is horizontal (landscape) or upright (portrait}

Here's a pic by Wazza which is a crop from a larger image and which I've roughly divided into thirds.

photo 1

The intersections where the lines cross are the points we're interested in. If an element of the picture falls on one or more of these intersections we can say it conforms to the ROT and it's often desirable if some element in the picture connects two or more of these thirds. In this picture you can see how the neck of the giraffe falls over a 3rd intersection, and the neck leads the eye to another 3rd right over the head which is also the focal point of the picture, so altogether the photo works well as a pleasing composition.

We're not working with the slide rule by any means - we're not aiming for these points with precision accuracy, simply aiming to get key elements of the picture at or around these 3rd intersections, and there will always be 4 of them. You don't have to use all 4 points, in fact you rarely will, and often you'll use just one or two.

Here's another example - a picture by Kenco.

photo 2

See how the bench in the foreground is over a 3rd and the strong diagonal line of the benches carries the eye to another 3rd which happens to be the 4th bench along. It comes across as a nicely composed image, but a person sitting on that 4th bench along as a focal point would have been pretty well perfect.

Lastly a cracking shot by Aeryk

photo 3

The body of the lad is nicely over a 3rd and his head as near a damn it, is at another. You get so involved in looking at this shot that you can't help but follow the lad's line of sight to where he's aiming that stone, and it leads right to another 3rd intersection. Even though there's actually nothing there of any particular interest, it's a great example of a 3rd working strongly for Aeryk here. Aeryk may actually never take a better shot than this one.

That's basically all there is to it.Get used to looking at pictures and applying the Rule Of Thirds to them. You'll start seeing it everywhere - it's very obviously used in many paintings by The Old Masters and pretty well everyone else - but more importantly you'll grasp a fundamental of composition which will aid your shots enormously.


It's a great rule to know and to be aware of but it isn't carved in stone. It isn't a rule to be slavishly followed. If you prefer to do it some other way that looks right to you, then it IS right, but the ROT is infinitely preferable to just always plonking your main subject in the middle of the photo regardless of the subject matter.

Article kindly written by CT

Thanks also to the members whos images have been used in this article, Aeryk01, Wazza and Kenco