It has been quite some time since I last wrote a composition guide.
This time I would like to touch on another popular composition guide i.e. rule of thirds.
Rules in photographic composition are actually not rules per se. It is more like guidelines in our strife to create a more harmonious and balanced picture which is pleasing to the eyes of viewers. Steve McCurry who produced the world’s famous portrait photograph once said “Rules in photography are just baloney”
Despite that one of the most common rules that is always taught in photography class or book is Rule of Thirds. Rule of thirds is about visualizing the viewfinder as having a grid which divides the frame into three equal segments, vertically and horizontally. By using the horizontal or vertical line or any of the intersection points as key position in placing the important element in a picture the composition is deemed to observe the rule of thirds.
I believe the rule of thirds was created to guide a photographer in placing the subject at the proper position in creating a harmonious balance in composition by avoiding placing the subject at the centre of the frame. Placing the subject at the centre doesn’t encourage the viewer’s eye to move around the image. This leads to a static composition, making little demand on the viewer to explore more in the image. Having said that placing the subject in the dead centre of the frame is not necessarily wrong all the time. This can still be done if the photographer has taken many factors into consideration especially if the photographer decides to compose the picture fully symmetrical.
The intersection point in rule of thirds to me comes in handy when I want to place the focal point in my composition or whenever my subject is relatively small against the vast background. In the meantime the lines in the rule of thirds grids will be useful when placing the horizon whenever I shoot seascape or landscape.
However rule of thirds can also be bent or even broken but as what they said you must know the rule first before you can break it. For example the subject can be placed at the extreme position far from any of the intersection point as shown above and nearer to the frame edge.
Some sample pictures composed with rule of thirds in mind.
And as I said the rule can be bent. In the picture below the human elements which become the focal point as well as provide a sense of scale are placed at the extreme bottom left hand part of the frame near to the bottom-left intersection point.
In order to learn more about the rule of thirds I suggest you these tips and you can google for it.
- Guidelines for better photographic composition: Rule of Thirds
- Rule of thirds – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Rule of Thirds and Photography
- Break the rule of thirds
- Photography.com – Rule of Thirds
Meanwhile you may want to refer to my previous Composition Guides:
- Composition Guide #1: Figure and Ground Flip
- Composition Guide #2: Reflections
- Composition Guide #3: Framing
- Composition Guide #4: Fully Symmetrical Composition
I wish you all the best in your photographic journey.