What is Rule of Thirds?

To compose your photos according to the rule of thirds, you must imagine your photo divided into nine equal parts using two vertical lines and two horizontal lines. The rule of thirds states that the most important elements in the scene should be placed along the gridlines or at the intersections where the lines meet.


In the above image you can see the photographer has placed the man riding the horse at the junction point where the left vertical gridline and bottom gridline meet.

Positioning the important elements off-center like this, rather than directly in the center of the frame, tends to create a more harmonious and balanced composition that looks and feels right to the human eye.

Of course, this “rule” is really just a guideline, and when broken intentionally, central subject placement can have a powerful visual impact. But in general, the rule of thirds is a great starting point for any composition.

Lets take a loot at ways in which rule of thirds can be used to create more visually appealing images.

1. Position The Horizon in Landscapes

When shooting landscapes, the rules of thirds is the first thing you should keep in mind while composing your photo.

Most landscape pictures don’t look good when the horizon is positioned in the center of the photo. Positioning the horizon centrally tends to chop the photo in half, and isn’t very pleasing to they eye.


For a better balanced composition, it’s best to place the horizon on or near one of the horizontal thirds lines.

If the sky is more interesting than the foreground, it makes sense to position the horizon on the bottom thirds line.

This allows you to fill two thirds of the frame with sky, drawing the viewer’s attention to that part of the scene.


However, if your landscape has an interesting foreground, then you should consider aligning the horizon along the top thirds line.

2. Position The Main Subject Off-Center

While composing any image it is important to ask yourself, “What is the main subject of this photograph?” Once you know what your main subject is, you then have to decide where to position it in your frame to enhance your photograph.

While central subject placement can have a powerful impact, your photo will usually look more natural and balanced if you position the subject off-center… In particular on one of the junction points where the horizontal and vertical gridlines meet.


In this image the photographer has used to rule of thirds to to position both the horizon and the main subject.

3. Position The Eye In Portraits

If you’re shooting portraits of people and animals, use the rule of thirds to position their face and eyes in the photographs.


The eyes when positioned correctly will catch the viewers attention first, hence positioning them off-center according to the rule of thirds will create the strongest composition.

4. Align Vertical Subjects

When photographing a vertical subject, such as a person or tall buildings, always think very carefully about where you position it within the frame.

Placing a tall subject in the middle of the frame can have the same impact as placing a horizon in the middle of the frame- it cuts the image in half.


It is best to position the subject on either the left or right side of the frame- on or near the vertical guidelines.

5. Leave Negative Space

Negative space refers to empty space in a scene, and it can have a powerful impact on your photo. Empty space allows you to create a clean and simple composition, placing maximum emphasis on your subject because nothing else is competing for attention.

Using the rule of thirds will allow you to quickly and easily create a good composition where the subject balances the empty space.


So whenever you’re photographing a scene with lots of negative space, consider aligning your main subject on one of the gridlines, or where two lines intersect.

By – Ghazala Shaikh

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