The simplest Rule in Photography - The Rule of Thirds
Updated: Jul 27
Photography is an art form. That being said; it's all about learning the rules to the point that you know how to bend or break them and thus, create art!
The Rule of Thirds is no different. It’s the simplest rule you can apply and the beauty of it is that its not something that needs to be a special feature of your camera or smartphone. So long as you have an image capturing device; you can apply this rule and it will always work wonders.
Before I go ahead and explain what the rule is all about; I’d like to mention another important thing which is true to all things artistic - Just like there are rules and ways to bend them; there are a couple of important things that you must always keep in mind - Your individual style and a vision for your art.
A word on Composition –
Composition is essentially the ‘Look’ of the scene in your photograph. Like many nifty phone camera shooters, we see photos that look very generic at best. There is nothing that will make you look at a photo for more than a few seconds. This can be for many reasons - Too many things in the photo; bad light; underexposed image; photo looks as if there is nothing much to look in it etc.
The Rule of Thirds is a rule for composing an image.
Simply put – All of us can sing a song like as if we’re strangling cat; but few know how to actually sing and those are the ones we listen to!
The Rule –
The grid above is what constitutes the rule. Its essentially dividing the scene or; let's say your camera's screen, into a third of its length and height.
Now comes the interesting part –
As per the rule; your subject or interesting elements of the photo must be placed either on the intersecting points or close to it OR they can also be placed within some sections of the grid as well. You could use the grid to create a sense of symmetry or space.
Essentially this grid helps you to draw a viewer’s attention to your subject.
That’s it! That’s all there is to it.
Practical Application –
A walk in the park
A walk in the park can be a good opportunity to take some nice photos. Typically this is what most of us will end up taking a photo of because how often will you find a stone head on a rock, right? But this is what makes an average photo Average; the subject is on your face; and you look at it for a few seconds without so much of a second thought and that’s it. Forgotten and tossed away somewhere in your storage. This doesn’t show what made it interesting and its too plain looking – There is no story in it!
So how do we tell a story? By Composing the photo using the Rule of Thirds!
Here the image has been composed Rule of Thirds Grid over-lay using the Rule of Thirds
In the above examples; you will note the following:
I have gone back a little to allow a little more of the scene around the head
The subject here is on the top left intersecting point with space on the right allowing for some of the background to be visible that gives some context to the overall photograph.
Here I have photographed the headlamp assembly of my motorcycle and applied the Rule of Thirds in the following manner:
When doing a close-up shot; the key is to focus on and keep the area of interest around or on the intersecting point's.
In this case; it’s the tiger light bulb at the top left intersecting point. This draws the eyes of the observer to the light first and then the rest of the parts of the assembly.
Here I have shot some earthen pots left for drying. This shot was composed using the Rule of Thirds such that the diagonal of the trey on which the pots were placed cuts across diagonally thus creating a symmetrical composition balancing out the clutter of the pots and the plainness of the earth below them.
Spacing out to emphasize the subject
Here is my bike again and this time I wanted to emphasize the logo. As I see it, the logo is something that exemplifies the bike and the brand’s character of being simple and classic yet an edgy piece of machinery!
Now how do you tell a story like that? Just the logo wouldn’t show all that now would it? Well, I’d had to get some of the bike into the frame too but not so much that people notice the bike And the logo. I only wanted a hint of the body of the bike while clearly focused on the logo.
Here is where I used the two sections of the grid between the left intersecting points and blurred out the rest of the bike. This way; I have enough space for the observer to infer that he/she is looking at a bike but before that it’s the logo that meets the eye in all its glory!
I hope this blog made sense to you and gave you an insight as to how a simple rule can make a big difference between an average photo and photo worth a thousand words!