The composition of a photograph is key. No matter how nice your camera is, or how perfect the setting and model are, if you don’t compose your picture properly, you risk taking an unbalanced or a low-quality photograph. Fortunately, a technique known as the rule of thirds exists that helps novice and professional photographers alike capture a well-balanced image. 


What is it?


The rule of thirds is simple: it divides a photograph evenly into nine parts, with two lines going vertically and two lines horizontally. By doing this, you can balance your photograph by placing the most prominent visual elements that allow the other elements in the photo to work with it, rather than being placed in the dead center and overshadowing the background. The subject(s) of the image creates a visual focus that offsets the negative space in the background, and if done correctly, leads smoothly from one background element to another as the viewer’s eyes cross the image. If the main element were in the dead center of the photograph, anything in the background would likely be missed.


How to Use It


Some cameras are equipped with a grid ready to be used with a press of a button. Even without a visual grid in your viewfinder or on your live view monitor, imagining the lines being there will help you as you practice this technique. When practicing using the rule of thirds, consider the following:


  • Move your camera from top to bottom slowly to find which third your heaviest visual element will be placed in. Once you’ve decided that, slowly move your camera side to side to find the other third you want to place your visual in.
  • Consider all of the elements you’ll be shooting when prepping to take a picture, not just the heaviest element. Figure out everything you want to highlight in the photo.
  • Study the work of others to see how they apply this rule to their own work. Save for some exceptions, like symmetry images, most artists will be using this rule when composing their work. 


Composition Tips


As previously mentioned, how your image is composed is crucial to its end result and how it’s received. Keep these two rules in mind when composing your image:


  • Placing your main visual element on the bottom horizontal line of your photo will help it stand out more than the other elements in the picture.
  • Most viewers likely read from left to right, and they’ll do the same when looking at your photo. Placing the main visual element to the right may stop the viewer and help retain their attention.