What is the Rule of Thirds in Photography and How to Use it

The rule of thirds is basically one way to improve the composition of a photo. Instead of taking a normal photo with the subject allocated randomly, the rule of thirds allows you to create more space and emphasize on your subject by giving it a little more prominence, more depth and better positioning.

Most cameras have a grid that divides the LCD screen in nine squares with two horizontal and two vertical lines. These lines can help you use the rule of thirds by placing your point of interest along the four intersecting points. The rule of thirds can apply to most photography scenarios. You will notice a big difference when you shoot portraits, landscapes, buildings or flowers.

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Shooting Landscapes

When shooting landscapes you place the horizon in the lower or higher line depending where you want to emphasize more. If you want to show more of the sky, the clouds or the moon you will place the horizon in the lower line but if you want to focus on the sea or a boat you may want to place the horizon on the top line of the grid. This way you say “this is the most important part of the photo, so I am giving it most of the weight”.

two thirds photography landscape

Shooting Portraits

The rule of thirds can apply to portrait shooting either the subject is near or further away. If you’re shooting headshots you should place one of the top intersecting points between the eyes. This will divide the face equally in two thirds and leave more space on the left or right. Another way to use the rule is to place the top horizontal line on the horizon with the head meeting in in one of the intersecting points. This way you will have a more dynamic view of the subject as well as the background.

two thirds photography portrait

Shooting Buildings

Imagine the third lines and place your building in one of the vertical ones. Then place the horizon in the lower third. There you go! Your photo has a much better composition than just placing the building at the center of your photo!

Shooting Flowers

I’ve seen some amazing quality images of flowers taken by professional photographers with expensive cameras and lenses. The rule of thirds though can be applied even if you’re using your smartphone. Get close to a flower and try placing the camera in one of the intersecting points. Notice the difference of the subject, the space and the background. It’s a better looking image isn’t it?

The rule of thirds can be applied in photos with the help of editing software too. You can edit and crop the image by using the grid in Lightroom or Avid’s pinnacle studio. If you apply the rule correctly, it will change the way you see things. It will give you and the viewer a different perspective.

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