The Rule of Thirds in Photography – Learn Photographic Composition to Take Better Pictures

This article belongs to a series of photography composition techniques. To start from the beginning, please refer to The Big Picture – Photography Composition Techniques.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds sets best practice for positioning the elements of a picture in order to achieve the best results. Following this “rule” will assist a photographer in producing a more aesthetically pleasing photo.

Firstly, I’d like to mention there are no set rules to photography. Let’s face it, if there were hard and fast rules, we’d have a lot of uncreative and unattractive photographs floating around. Photography is an art form – a portal to creativity. So, the word “Rule” in “Rule of Thirds” should maybe be replaced with “Rule of Thumb”…then again, that doesn’t flow so nicely, does it? You get the idea.

Rule of Thirds Grid

Visualize a Noughts and Crosses grid (Tic-Tac-Toe, if you prefer) and you’ve pictured the Rule of Thirds.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Rule of Thirds Grid

Yep, it’s that simple….well, almost. The idea is that you take your subject(s) or areas of interest and place them along or near the intersecting parts of the grid.

Surprisingly – or not – many people tend to take pictures with their subject being smack dab in the center of the photograph. This applies to all subject matters – people, landscapes, wildlife, etc. Although, sometimes a photograph can walk away looking better with the subject centered, that’s rarely the case.

Examples of the Rule of Thirds

The following example shows the grid on the picture. The people are positioned near the bottom right intersection…

Photo by PhotopediaPhotos

rule of thirds

Visualize the grid on the following pictures and take note how the point of interests are positioned on or near the imaginary intersecting lines…

Photo by eye of einstein

the rule of thirds

Photo by Midnight-digital

photo composition

Photo by susanlk74

photographic composition technique

Bad Example, Good Example

I’ll conclude this article with two images. They are of the same people and same background, in fact, they haven’t even changed positions. The only difference is that the photographer repositioned herself to follow the rule of thirds, making for a much more appealing photograph.

Photos by PhotopediaPhotos

Bad example:

bad example of the rule of thirds

Good example:

good example of the Rule of Thirds

This post is part of the series: Photography Composition

To take the best photos, there are many different photographic composition techniques you need take into consideration. This article series on photography composition will provide you with guidelines, tips and techniques to help you learn how to take better photos.
  1. The Big Picture – Photographic Composition Techniques
  2. Give Them Space – Photography Composition Techniques
  3. Capture Photos from Different Angles – Photography Composition Techniques
  4. Don’t Forget to do a Background Check – Photography Composition Techniques
  5. Contrast – Photography Composition Techniques
  6. Fill Your Frame – Photography Composition Techniques
  7. Framing Your Subject – Photography Composition Techniques
  8. Making Use of Lines – Photography Composition Techniques
  9. Rule of Thirds – Photography Composition Techniques