Before discussing the Rule of Thirds,
I should probably let you know that there is no such thing as a “rule” in photography. Photography is an art form and, like in all art forms, there are some guidelines that may help people create better art most of the time. But I can tell you this; following the Rule of Thirds or any other “rule” in photography is no guarantee that your photos will be good. Instead breaking the rules sometimes may create images that are more powerful than the images that were created by following all the recommended rules.
You are the sole person who decides what is good and what is not. If you like it, it doesn’t matter if someone else agrees with you or not.
Okay then having cleared that out, let’s jump in and learn what the Rule of Thirds is all about and why we follow it.
Why Use It?
Rule of Thirds is basically a concept that is developed on the premise that human eyes when looking at a photograph generally go to a few specific points on the photograph than the others. So, placing the most interesting or the more important part of the photo in those particular points helps the eyes of the onlooker in better navigating the photograph and connecting with the significant parts.
Let’s break down the concept a little more.
The Actual Rule.
Imagine a white canvas/frame. Now, imagine the canvas being divided in three equal parts; horizontally and vertically (‘thirds’ remember). You will now have divided the frame into nine equal parts.
The Rule of Thirds is simply to frame your shot in such a way so that the most important part of the photograph is placed on (along) one of the intersections (lines), of the above specified imaginary lines. The “most important part” can be anything. It can be the flower that you are trying to photograph. Maybe be a person that is the primary focus of the image. It may also be a part of the subject like his eyes. Basically the part of the image that you think should be most prominent.
The Rule of Thirds is equally effective when you are shooting in portrait orientation. The imaginary line would stay the same, however in this case you may have to place your subjects along the lines more often, but that is fine.
This Rule Of Thirds is designed so that we work with the natural flow of the human eye and not against it. Our eyes tend to be naturally drawn to these intersecting points; more than the center of the image or the absolute edges of it. It has been proven by many studies to be actually true. Hence placing your primary subjects on those intersecting points is a good idea to start with.
My Take On It:
In my opinion, the “rule” is like a good paved track to run on when you are relatively new or just starting up. A good ‘rule of thumb’. It would help you from making absolutely bad shots and save you a lot of thinking on how to exactly frame your shots. However, in due course of time this “rule” should just be at the back of your mind; used only if you think it helps in making the image more striking or powerful.
A few things to remember before you head out and start shooting. Do not follow the Rule of thirds blindly. There are many things to consider when you are framing your shot, like;
Headroom: Headroom is the distance between the subjects head and the top of the frame. Leave a little head room for your subject for this will make your photographs look natural and your subject not look like amputees.
Lead Room: My definition would be this is the space your subject has to move into a moment later; i.e. if your subject were to continue to move in the direction they are facing now; how much space do you have in the frame to accommodate that. The photo may not look very natural if there is no lead room, or if the subject’s natural movement is abruptly disrupted.
If this is the first time you are learning about the ‘famous’ Rule of Thirds, having already taken many images in the past without knowing about this guideline, have no fear. Today’s post-production software such as Photoshop and Lightroom are very good. If your previous shots were taken with a half decent camera; you may be able to crop them to suit the rule. See if at all it makes an impact. Doing this will help you understand the dynamics of composition and make your next shot even better.
Enough of theory now. It’s time to go out and start putting your new-found knowledge to use. Class dismissed!