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The Rule of Thirds Explained.

What is The Rule of Thirds?


In any discussion about composition in photography, the rule of thirds will probably be mentioned at some point or another.

It has been around for a long time, as a guideline for making an interesting visual composition in all sorts of media, including photography, painting, and design.


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Basically the rule suggests that you divide your canvas – or photographic frame – with two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines, thus creating 9 equally sized areas.


If you then put your subject on one of the points where the lines intersect, or have it running along one of the lines, the resulting composition will be more visually interesting and dynamic than if you had put the subject in the centre of the frame.


This applies not only to your main subject, but also to any other important compositional elements, such as a horizon for instance.astrantia for rule of thirds


The first thing to say about the rule of thirds is that it’s better not to regard it as a rule at all!


As a guideline though, it can be very helpful, and can lead to a well-composed photograph in a surprising number of instances.


You can apply it in any kind of photography - landscapes, portraits, wildlife, macro, flowers – it’s impossible to think of a category where it might not be useful at some time or another.


Sometimes the use of the rule will be quite obvious.


In this photo of a lavender field (above), the dividing line between the lavender and the sky is about two thirds of way up the frame, and the little tree is about one third of the way in from the left edge.


I wasn’t consciously thinking about the rule when I took the photo, but it must have been there somewhere in my sub-conscious!


In this photo of an Astrantia, (right) the use of the rule is a little more subtle.


When you analyse it, you can see that the stem of the flower is approximately a third of the way in from the left, and the main flower head is more or less on the top left intersection point.


I think the resulting composition is more interesting than if the flower had been bang in the centre of the frame.


It’s quite interesting to analyse other photos or paintings that you come across, and see how often the rule has been used – and whether you think it works.


And bear it in mind as one of the many possibilities when you next compose a photograph!

Geoff Harris

I am a photography journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill, Steve McCurry and the late Mary Ellen Mark. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time.

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