The Rule of Thirds: When composing your photographs, this tip is tops


The Rule of Thirds

When composing your photographs, this tip is tops

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


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When taking a picture, we tend to follow two basic steps. First, we look through the viewfinder. Second,we push the button. The first step, where most of the creativity comes in, determines whether your pictures are suitable for framing or better off stuffed in a box, forever. To have more "keepers" to show your family and friends, try applying one of the simplest, yet most powerful composition tips, the rule of thirds.

Let's start by looking at two examples. While strolling around your garden you're drawn to this yellow crocus blooming in front of purple crocuses.

Crocus in center Crocus in corner

The left photo shows a typical shot, placing the subject--the yellow flower--right in the center of the frame. The result is a static picture, where the rest of the photo doesn't provide much in the way of support. It's what I call a "one-looker" because you only want to look at it once! Not really, but you get what I mean.

The photo on the right is much more pleasing to look at. That's because the photographer (you, right?) applied the rule of thirds, making it much more dymanic. Let's explore how to use the rule of thirds and how it can improve your picture taking skills.

The rule of thirds explained

If you don't know where to place your subject within the frame, start with the old standby "rule of thirds." Divide up your image into thirds vertically and horizontally, so it looks like a a tic-tac-toe grid, like the one shown below. The grid is a stong compositional tool: Where the lines intersect are powerful points for placing the subject, or the subject's most important elements. Generally speaking, you don't want to put the main subject in the middle.

Rule of thirds grid
Avoid center-weighted photographs. Place your subject
where the lines intersect for a more powerful composition.

Now let's look at two real-life examples showing how the rules of thirds works in a composition.

Vertical lupine Gardener waving
In the left photograph, nursery owner Caroline, waves from the upper left hand corner of the photo. At right, the horizon line is place near the top, instead of cutting the image in half across the middle.

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To see more photos, you're invited to check out my weekly photo feature. Many of the images have been previously published.
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The rule of thirds is a simple and effective way to turn a so-so image into an award-winning zinger. And once you start putting it into practice, you'll begin noticing it being used in paintings, billboards, cereal boxes and TV ads. The rule of thirds may turn out to be the most powerful tool in your camera bag of tricks. Happy picture taking!

Thanks for visiting and please stop by again. I'll put the coffee on!

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