What is The Rule Of Thirds in Photography?


Whether your photography style has advanced into the digital age or is still manually driven through analog, the process of creating a compelling composition is an important act. The rule of thirds for photography should always be in the back of every photographers mind when aligning their shot. In this blog, we discover what the rule of thirds is and how it can be utilized.

What is The Rule Of Thirds in Photography?

The rule of thirds is an imaginary set of lines that create a grid on your frame and allow the user to compose their subject in the image. There are 4 lines which separate the image into 9 different sections. The point of this is to balance the different elements in a photograph. By placing your subject in any of the top, left, right or bottom boxes you will have a balanced photo. According to the rule of thirds, if you place your subject in the middle box the balance will be off because of the surrounding negative space.


Rule Of Thirds: Points Of Interest

When understanding the four intersecting lines which make up the imaginary rule of thirds. These lines intersect in 4 different crosshairs, these are known as “points of interest”. The theory behind the rule of thirds is that the human eye is naturally drawn to one of these 4 points, rather than the middle of the image. This also makes sure that your photo is balanced between your subject and the surrounding negative space. Here’s an example of how this can be utilized:


This image has the main focus being the main holding the snake. The man is placed in the upper right crosshairs to create balance between whats in focus and what is not. If you place your subject in these crosshairs it will allow for the viewers eye to natural be drawn to your subject. Allowing for this balance in composition also creates a harmony in the photograph between what is important and what is not.

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The Rule Of Thirds and Landscape Photography:


In this photograph, the object is to keep balance between negative and positive space. The main focus of this photo is the ship that is in the distance, which is why it is placed in the bottom right crosshairs. This allows the viewers eye to be drawn in to the boat. The secondary thought is keeping the horizon of the mountains in line. When composing landscape photography it is important to align the horizon with either the upper or lower horizontal lines.

Positive and negative space are important concepts in landscape photography. The positive space is the actual subject you are photographing and want to be in focus. Whereas the negative space would be the sunset or sky, which has no subject to compose. In the photograph above we chose to leave more negative space (the sunset) to allow for the silhouette of the mountains to be emphasized.

Rule Of Thirds on Digital Cameras:

In the digital age of photography many of these large producers such as Nikon and Canon have the option to display a grid in the viewfinder. This is a super helpful tool for framing a photograph in camera, and it can be accessed through the user menu. For most DSLR cameras this can be accessed by first going into the controls menu. Navigate through this menu into the display settings, and there should be an option to turn on or off a grid. For further instructions check out Nikon’s guide here or for Canon users you can find a guide here.

Rule Of Thirds on the iPhone:

The rule of thirds has even extended into the new age of smartphone photography. In recent years the Apple iPhone has become the most popular choice for those venturing into smartphone photography. With the introduction of so many accessories for iPhone photography it is important to get the most bang for your buck. For this reason we must start with the features that are already in the software. To access the grid feature on your iPhone camera display you must first open the settings application. Then, scroll down until you see Camera, and once you open that a menu like this should appear:


Simply toggle the grid setting to “ON”! The next time you open the camera application, the grid will automatically be displayed on the screen. This way you can make sure every photograph is straight and properly composed!

Applying The Rule Of Thirds:

The next step in understanding the rule of thirds is putting it in to practice. Go out and shoot! Shoot everything and anything because the more you do, the easier this will seem. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it will become second nature. Another easy way to compose photos is shooting more than what you need and editing it in post-production. For tips and tricks on how to compose a photo in post-production, check out our blog on how to Straighten and Crop Photos In Lightroom.