Photography for Beginners: Rule of Thirds

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Blurb photographers come in the full range of experience and skill, but the one thing we all have in common is the ongoing desire to take better photos. We’d like to offer a series of lessons and tips here in the blog, starting with the most basic ideas useful to those who are just starting to think about their photos critically.

One of the easiest ways to improve the overall look and feel of your photos is to change the composition or the way that the subject is arranged within the frames of the picture. Most beginners simply point their cameras directly at the subject, centering it in the view finder, and then clicking the shutter.

Instead, follow the “Rule of Thirds,” which suggests that you should imagine your photo broken up into 9 equal parts by 2 equally spaced horizontal lines and 2 equally spaced vertical lines. Aim for your subject matter to fall on one of the lines, or even better, at one of the points of intersection.

Landscape imagery is an easy subject to try this out on. Instead of centering the horizon in the middle of the photo, adjust your aim so that it falls on either of the horizontal lines.

rule of thirds centered boat Photography for Beginners: Rule of Thirds

The two photos above and below show the same image with different compositions.  The top photo shows the point of interest centered in the photo and the second one follows the rule of thirds.

rule of thirds off centered boat Photography for Beginners: Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds jessica centered Photography for Beginners: Rule of Thirds

This set of photos also shows the difference in composition between centering and using the rule of thirds.

rule of thirds not centered jessica Photography for Beginners: Rule of Thirds

You can also try applying this to photos of faces. Avoid making the eyes the center of the photo. Aim for one of those intersecting points instead to create a photo that appears more balanced and professional.

rule of thirds max off centered Photography for Beginners: Rule of Thirds

Of course, if you’re working with auto-focus, you may find that you need to set the auto-focus point on the subject, then move the camera to get the composition you want before pressing the shutter. Check your camera’s manual for details (if you still have it – if not, you should be able to find it online).

Have questions? Let us know if the comments.

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