Production: Understanding the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the most common rules that photographers use. Basically, the rule of thirds states that you can break any image down into horizontal and vertical thirds. When you break an image down into horizontal and vertical thirds, you are left with 9 parts. The lines that create those 9 parts will intersect in the middle square. If you are having a hard time imagining that, draw out a tic-tac-toe board. The principle behind the rule of thirds states that any important elements of your photograph should appear within the middle square where the lines intersect.

Using the Rule of Thirds

When using the rule of thirds, you do not want the subject of your shot to appear in the middle of the photograph. Many photographers make the mistake of trying to center their subject. When you center a subject, your picture may appear to be uninteresting and dull. If you fail to properly utilize the rule of thirds when you are taking photographs, you can apply the rule by cropping the photo(s) afterwards.

It can be very difficult to use the rule of thirds, because you have to try to imagine these 9 squares in your head. When you are looking through the viewfinder of your camera, try to imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines. By imaging the lines, you will be able to create a visual picture in your head of where the lines intersect in the middle. You may want to check the settings on your digital camera, as some digital cameras have a built in rule of thirds grid.

Photographing Stationary Subjects With the Rule of Thirds

If you are photographing stationary subjects, take a few shots with the subject lined up against one of the two vertical lines. You will immediately notice the difference in the quality of your shot. By not centering the subject in the middle of your photograph, you are creating a pleasing and balanced arrangement. Generally speaking, when you center your subject in a photograph, people who look at that photograph will focus on the subject and ignore any other elements of the shot. To place an emphasis on both the subject of your photo and the other elements, you should try to line the other elements up with the other vertical line.

Photographing Moving Subjects With the Rule of Thirds

It can be a bit more difficult to apply the rule of thirds when it comes to shooting moving subjects. As a general guideline, you want to give your subject something to move into when using the rule of thirds. For example, if you are taking a photograph of a soccer player that is running from the right side of the field, you should line the soccer player up on either the bottom or top of the right vertical line. By doing this, the center and left side of your photograph will show the field, which helps to capture the movement of the player.

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