Photography 3rds Rule

The photography 3rds rule is one of the most widely used composition techniques. It’s a simple idea: imagine your image divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, and place important compositional elements along these lines or their intersections.

This off-centre placement draws the viewer’s eye and makes your subject stand out, resulting in a more visually appealing photo. Other compositional guidelines and principles include leading lines, pyramid shapes, symmetry, and the golden ratio.


A basic principle of composition is the rule of thirds, which recommends that you place your subject in or near one of the grid lines or their intersection points. This is easy enough to do on most cameras, which have a built-in grid overlay that you can activate and use as a guide for positioning your subject. You can also draw a grid with a ruler or compass, or use photo editing software to create your own guides for positioning the subject in your images.

The rule of thirds works by imagining an image divided into nine equal parts with two horizontal and two vertical lines. The points where these lines intersect are called power points, and putting your subject in these areas can make the image more visually pleasing. The rule of thirds can be applied to any kind of photo, and even old photos that you have already processed can be improved by re-cropping them using the rule of thirds.

Rule of Thirds

In photography and filmmaking, the rule of thirds is an effective way to frame your subjects. It is not a rigid, unbreakable rule, but more of a golden guideline that can help you create visually compelling compositions.

To apply the rule of thirds, simply imagine dividing your image into thirds horizontally and vertically. The intersection points where the lines meet are known as power points, and they are where you should place your main point of interest. You can also use the built-in grid feature on most digital cameras to help you visualize this principle.

The rule of thirds is useful for a wide range of scenes, including landscapes, portraits, and even action shots. It’s easy to use, and it can help you capture more interesting photographs. However, don’t forget that there are other composition techniques you can use to elevate your images. For example, using leading lines can add more depth to your composition.

Grid overlays

Using grid overlays can help you position your subject to create more balanced and dynamic compositions. It can also be helpful in post-processing your images to fix any distortion or tilted horizons. Using a ruler or compass to place guide lines on your image can be even more effective than grid overlays. This will help you to locate the ‘power points’ of your photo, which are considered to be the most interesting and visually compelling parts of the frame. For example, you can focus on positioning your subject’s eyes in one of the power points.

While the rule of thirds encourages photographers to stray away from centering their subjects, there are some instances where it may be beneficial. For example, if you’re photographing a group of people or a busy landscape scene, centering your subject can create satisfying symmetry. However, breaking the rule of thirds should be done with careful consideration and should not be done haphazardly.

Breaking the rule

In photography, just like in painting and drawing, there are times when breaking the rule can produce an even more eye-catching composition. The main thing to remember is to experiment with different compositions before deciding to break the Rule of Thirds.

For example, if the landscape is all about the sky then it may make more sense to place the horizon off centre so that it doesn’t take up too much of the frame. The same is true for photos that focus on symmetry, such as a mirror reflection in water or a mountain reflecting off a wet road.

It’s also worth experimenting with centered images to see how they look, and don’t be afraid to crop your image post-capture to create a balanced composition. If you’re still struggling to find a balance in your photos then try studying the work of great film directors and cinematographers for inspiration. They often break the rule of thirds but they know how to do it in a way that adds to their visual storytelling.

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