Rule of Thirds

One of the most often quoted "rules" in photography is the "Rule of Thirds". The rule is relatively simple and is intended to make a more dynamic yet pleasing composition. To apply the rule you simply divide the sides of an image into equal thirds.

The rule of thirds states that the "strongest" point in an image is at the intersection of these dividing lines. Placing the subject here can make a good image stronger.

If the subject does not suit placement at one of the intersections then placing it along one of the dividing lines can also help create a stronger image.

Images often benefit from placing the horizon line at one of the thirds. 

And, like every "rule" in photography, it is ok to break it. Some subjects just wont work as well when you try to make them conform to a rule.

Another less common rule is the Golden Spiral

This rule states that if you draw a line from the apex of the arc repeatedly it will leave behind squares. This form is suppose to lead the eye to the center of the spiral. I don't have any photographic examples of this.

I guess I could try to apply the spiral to this image.
But you will notice that the focal point is also on the left 1/3 vertical. 

And for anyone really into rules, there is also the "Golden Triangle". I'm not even going to try to make one of my images conform to this rule.
Instead I'll provide a link to the Golden Ratio on Wikipedia. You see, all of these rules are a variance of the golden ratio. And all of them very nearly overlay each other depending upon image aspect ratio.

I think it all comes down to the "three is better than two" or "odd numbers" idea in composition. An image is better broken into "odd sections" just like a flower arrangement is better with 3 or 5 flowers rather than 2 or 4.

The "rule of thirds" is enough for me. I break it almost as often as I follow it anyways. But, I almost always consider it in my compositions.


Take a picture with a central subject, something you want to make be "the focus" of the picture, and apply the rule of thirds to it. Try the different intersection points, or the various dividing lines, and see how it affects the feel of the image.

The easiest way to do this is to take the image with plenty of room for cropping to the different layouts. I suggest always leaving some room to allow cropping for composition., but this will be excessive for most images. 
Alternatively you can take several different pictures applying the rule of third differently each time.

In time you will learn to see the composition within the rule of thirds, and if it fits, before you ever click the shutter.

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