Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Rule of Thirds

The most well-known rule of photographic composition is the rule of thirds. It says that when composing your photograph, to imagine lines drawn in a tic-tac-toe fashion, dividing the frame into nine equal squares. The main subject matter of your scene should then be placed along these lines, preferably where the lines intersect. Doing this heightens the sense of tension and gives the composition additional interest.

Most snapshots are taken with the subject matter in the dead center and with the horizon cutting across the center of the frame -- this balanced approach forces the viewer's eye toward the center of the photo. The scene will look static -- lacking energy and motion. Now move the subject to where the imaginary 'rule of thirds' lines intersect and suddenly the photo is off-center and the viewer's eye must now examine the other two-thirds of the picture! Look here and here for excellent examples. You might also scroll down this page and see if you can pick out the other photos where I've utilized this 'rule.'

Like all rules, it's meant to be broken! There are times when putting the subject matter in the bull's eye makes a powerful statement. Other times, putting the horizon all the way at the top or bottom of the frame makes for a dramatic scene. The point is to break the habit of always putting the subject matter and the horizon in the center -- you'll be surprised how following this simple rule will dramatically enhance your photographs.

Above: Lights at Muncey Memorial Methodist Church, Johnson City, TN

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