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Photography Tips 2 – The Rule Of Thirds

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This is the second in a series of articles discussing some of the photography techniques I’ve learned and employ when I’m out on a shoot.

One of the basic rules of photography (and remember, rules are there to be broken) is the Rule of Thirds. I’ve never quite worked out why, but when you look at a picture of, say, a hill, and the horizon is in the middle of the shot – it just doesn’t look right. But if you put the horizon on the line of the top or bottom third of the picture, it just magically works – this means either the foreground or the sky take up two thirds of the shot respectively.

When you’re composing a shot, imagine a 3×3 grid overlaying what you see (some cameras actually have this feature). Then try and line things up with the grid lines, or put points of interest at the intersection of these lines. Here are some examples of shots I’ve taken that I’ve tried to apply the rule of thirds to:

Rule of Thirds 1 In this shot I’ve put the waterfall in the left third of the shot, the water in the bottom third and the back wall in the top-right two thirds. It’s not perfect but that doesn’t matter, the rule of thirds is just a guide – not a law!
Rule of Thirds 2 I’ve been even more rough here, I’ve just tried to put the hills in the background into the middle horizontal third and the tree in the top-right and middle-right boxes. I couldn’t have placed the couple any better – right on the intersection of two boxes.
Rule Of Thirds 3 Here I’ve aligned the horizon with the bottom third line (leaving the sky to take up the top two-thirds) and kept the post in the left-most third. In fact, I could have cropped the left column and made that into a photo of its own (since the post only fills the bottom two thirds).

Like I said though, it’s a guide not a law so don’t feel you have to perfectly line things up or not take a shot because you can’t fit it into a 3×3 grid. It’s a compositional aid and can help you balance pictures out. Looking through my own photos I notice that I don’t religiously stick to the rule, I mix it up depending on what I’m trying to photograph. If you look through the viewfinder and all you’re thinking of are a bunch of compositional rules rather than what you can see, you might not create half as interesting a picture!

Next: ND Grad Filters.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

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