Creativity never depends on any kind of rules. It’s a free bird that only looks good when not bound by any kind of rules. However, the rule of thirds is one of the oldest and best known principles of photography. Applying it to your composition can dramatically improve your photography. But what exactly this rule is all about?
Wikipedia explains the rule of thirds as:
“… a compositional rule of thumb in photography …The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph . Proponents of this technique claim that aligning a photograph with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the feature would.”
First, how exactly does the rule work?
The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. While photographing a subject, you have two ways of doing this. One is with your LCD viewfinder and other is internally within your mind. With this grid in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image.
Breaking the so called rule in simple language, it’s just an extension of human vision psychology (if you can put it that way). Our eyes tend to go to the edges first and then to the center of the frame. This rule exploits the same theory by giving a thumb rule of not placing the subject in the dead centre of frame but rather on the intersection point of the grid lines, ideally.
How to Apply the Rule
There are 2 basic principles to the Rule of Thirds.
1) Place points of interest where the grid intersects. Please note that I’ve used the term “point of interest” here and not “subject”. The reason for that is, the point of interest can be more specific than the subject itself (like subject’s eyes, etc.). You can place the point of interest on any of the many intersection points you have in the grid system.
2) Line up the natural lines in your photos to match the lines on the grid. When shooting images with natural lines (like horizons, buildings, etc) try to match the natural lines in your photo to the lines on the grid pattern in the rule of thirds. When shooting a portrait, try to place the eyes (a natural line in the photo) along one of the lines in the grid. Again, this will add emphasis to the aspect of the photo along the line.
Learning By Examples
Now I’ll tell you how I Implied this rule in my real life. Here’s a photograph of one of my friend Anurag which I shot one fine day. As you can see, in the following photograph, I have ignored Rule of Thirds and placed his face in the dead centre of the frame.
Now let’s reframe the shot by following the Rule Of Thirds
Spotted the difference? The second photograph looks more awesome. Isn’t it? Here’s yet another example of another friend of mine
The Rule of Thirds is just a theoretical form of how our eyes perceive and process the images. It’s more of a mind game rather than a photography trick. Use this rule wisely to make your photographs even better. And yes,as they say, rules are made to be broken 😉