The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is among the most helpful composition approaches to photography. This is an important concept to understand as possible utilized in all kinds of photography to create images for engaging and balanced.

Obviously, rules will not be applied blindly, specifically in art, which means you should consider it more like a handy “guideline” instead of one that is absolute. However, it’ll create a pleasing photo generally, and is a superb beginning point for just about any composition.

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds involves psychologically dividing your image using 2 lines of horizontal type and a pair of vertical lines, as proven below. After this you squeeze important components inside your scene along individuals lines, or in the points where they meet.

Rule of thirds grid

A rule of thirds grid. Important components (your shed, and also the border between your ground and also the trees) are situated across the lines and also at the intersections. Image by Martin Gommel.

The concept is the fact that an off-center composition is much more pleasing towards the eye and appears natural than a single in which the subject is positioned right in the center of the frame. Additionally, it encourages you to definitely make creative utilization of negative space, the empty areas around your subject.

How to Use the Rule of Thirds

When framing a photograph, think of the scene divided as above. Consider what aspects of the photo are most significant, and then try to position them at or close to the lines and intersections from the grid. They needn’t be perfectly arranged as lengthy as they are close.

Woman in snow

The horizon and primary subject within this photo happen to be positioned near lines or intersections for optimum impact. Image by K Praslowicz.

You may want to move about for the greatest composition. This can make you think more carefully concerning the shot, and is a great habit to get involved with whether you are while using rule of thirds or otherwise.

To assist you, some cameras possess a setting which overlays a guide of thirds grid on your photo. This removes all uncertainty helping you receive your positioning much more accurate.


The rule of thirds is extremely versatile and could be utilized on any subject. Listed below are some illustration of it getting used effectively in various kinds of shots.

Landscape with tree

Image by Andreas Wonisch.

In landscape shots, it is common to put the horizon across the center from the frame, however this can provide the photo a “split in 2” feel. Rather, put it along among the lines of horizontal type.

Attempt to include another interesting object, like the tree within the photo above, and position it based on the rule of thirds. This gives an “anchor”, an all natural focus for that scene.

Portrait of a girl

Image by Megan Leetz.

It’s wise to put people off and away to one for reds from the frame. This gives some “breathing space”, shows the subject’s atmosphere, and stops the photo from searching just like a mugshot.

We’re naturally attracted to people’s eyes. Put them at among the intersections around the rule of thirds grid to own shot a obvious focus.

Butterfly hanging from a twig

Image by Prem Anandh.

Here the primary subject continues to be placed at among the intersections, as well as along one a vertical line. The twig roughly follows the very best horizontal line. The empty space at the end left provides balance and prevents the image from feeling overcrowded.


Image by Dennis Jarvis.

Vertical subjects similar to this lighthouse can split a photograph in 2, in exactly the same like a horizon can perform horizontally. To avert this, position them off-center inside your composition.

Horse and rider

Image by muskva.

When photographing moving subjects, position them normally, but additionally take notice of the direction they are moving. Typically you need to leave extra space before them than behind, to exhibit where they are going.

Using Editing Software

It is simple to use the rule of thirds to existing photos by popping them. This enables you to definitely reposition the key subjects inside your image, moving them into more pleasing positions.

A photo re-cropped to use the rule of thirds

Re-popping to make use of the rule of thirds can improve composition. Image by Jenn Forman Orth.

That will help you, software like Illustrator and Lightroom have built-in “crop guide overlays” including a guide of thirds option. This places a guide of thirds grid on the top of the image while you crop it, enabling you to get the positioning place on.

Breaking the Rule

As with every rules (a minimum of in photography), the rule of thirds does not apply in each and every situation, and often breaking it can cause an infinitely more eye-catching, interesting photo. Experiment and try out different compositions even when they’re going against any “rules” you’ve learned.

However, learn how to make use of the rule of thirds effectively before you decide to attempt to break it – this way you can be certain you are doing this to get a much better composition, as opposed to just with regard to it.