Rule of Thirds Composition. The rule of thirds is a guideline to assist you compose your images. The purpose is to divide your image into nine equal parts by equally spacing two horizontal and two vertical imaginary lines. The important elements or subject’s should be placed where these lines intersect. This is one of the most important principles of photographic composition.

The idea behind the rule of thirds composition is that these points create more energy and interest in the composition than simply centering your subject. The points of interest do not have to touch any of these lines to take advantage of this method.

Windswept Tree

When photographing a landscape it is best to place the horizon on the lower or upper horizontal line. If you have a dramatic sky then two thirds of your image would show the sky as the dominant feature. Likewise, if the landscape is more interesting then this would take up two thirds of the image.

Rule of Thirds Composition Subjects

Single subjects are usually placed to the left or right vertical line and not in the centre. I usually place my subjects to the right of the image as we usually read from left to right! If the subject is moving I place more space in front of them to show where they are going and to create more interest in the image.

This also applies to portraits of people and animals in which more space is given to the direction they are looking. Also, by not placing portrait subjects in the centre of the image they won’t look like mugshots!

When shooting your image you need to decide what the point of interest in the shot will be and where to place them.

Rule of Thirds Composition Breaking the Rules

Using the rule of thirds method will come naturally and many cameras today have the rule of thirds grid in the camera. My Sony A77 and now Sony A7R has this as a feature but after a little practice it comes natural. Using photo editing software you can easily apply the rule of thirds but wouldn’t it be easier to get the shot light within your camera. As with many rules in photography the rule of thirds doesn’t always apply and it can be broken however get used to this method before breaking it.