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Rule of Thirds

| November 30, 2009 | 1 Comment
Rule of thirds is probably one of the most important and most well-known rule of composition in photography. It is repeated in almost every guide to photography, photography tips section in photo magazines and is an integral part of every photography course. So, what is this rule, and why is it so important ?

When shooting a photo, taking your subject and putting it in the center of the frame may seem like a natural choice, and in some cases it might work well. However, in most cases, having the subject in the center of the frame usually makes a static image which are more often then not dull and boring. In the time before photography, painters had the exact same problem, and they came up with the rule of thirds.

Rule of thirds assumes that you split your viewfinder into 9 equal pieces (place mouse over cathedral photo for demonstration), and to place your main subject(s) along the lines dividing the frame. In our example, the cathedral and the fortress are the main subjects, and consequently they are placed along main lines making for strong composition. Also note that the church tower and the tree are placed at intersections making them focal points of the photo.  So our photography tip of the week is:

“Try to incorporate rule of thirds into your photos.”

So, if you shoot landscape, avoid placing the horizon in the middle. If there is more detail in the sky (nice clouds, beautiful sunset colors), then emphasize the sky by putting horizon on the bottom third. If there is more detail in the foreground, do the opposite. Note that rule of thirds is valid not only for landscapes, but for pretty much every aspect of photography.

You will see that your photos will appear much more dynamic, and that on average they pack much more visual impact. Check out these flickr photos for more rule of thirds examples. The only thing more important than following the rule of thirds, is knowing when to break it, but we will cover that in one of our future photography tips. Until then, happy shooting.

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Category: Beginners Photography, Landscape Photography, Photography Lessons, Photography Tips

About the Author (Author Profile)

Alan Graf is the editor and founder of Digital Photography Student. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is also editor of – a Croatian wallpaper archive, and his own photo gallery at

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  1. […] excellent chapter illustrating basic photography concepts such as exposure, focus, depth of field, rule of thirds, etc, and directly applying them to taking better travel photos. On top of that, you will find some […]

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