Shooting stunning pictures often has very little to do with your camera settings. It has to do with where you’re aiming your lens. After you’ve traveled so far to reach a destination, it’s so disappointing to frame less-than-compelling compositions of captivating subjects. This article delivers one simple and effective fundamental guideline that will help you find the best angle and do justice to your future subjects.
If you divide the frame up into equal thirds both vertically and horizontally, you get what looks like a tic-tac-toe board. The Rule of Thirds instructs that points of interest, such as your subject, be placed at the intersection of these grid lines. By doing this, you avoid the visual stagnation of placing your subject directly in the center and also set up a hierarchy within the frame. When the main focal point is on one of these intersections, it adds more visual weight to that side of the picture. This imbalance pulls attention and establishes a visual order of importance within the composition. This is key to creating movement and dynamic images.
Let’s look at this leaf example from a zen garden in Japan. The lone leaf in front of the stone is clearly the intended subject in both shots. However, by placing the leaf in the center of the frame, the shot on the left is less intentional about creating a hierarchy of visual importance and is more stagnant than the shot on the right which employs the Rule of Thirds.
Similar to subjects, when there is a bisecting line such as a horizon in the shot, the best practice according to the rule of thirds is to align it with one of the thirds lines. This again creates a hierarchy between sky and ground, thus enabling you as a photographer to communicate more clearly.
However, keep in mind, horizons don’t always have to be straight. In a later article, I’ll talk more about using leading lines to your advantage.
Can you see how the Rule of Thirds was employed in these images?
Stay tuned for next week’s article on fundamental composition which talks specifically about how and when to break the Rule of Thirds.