Summer Photo Tips: #5 – Making Photos With the Rule of Thirds
When something catches our attention like a bird soaring overhead or a car passing by, we normally shift our eyes so that the subject is centered in our field of view. Perhaps because we do this naturally, when photographing there is also a tendency to place the main subject in the center of the photo. Photographers refer to this as “bulls eye” composition. While centering a subject is fine in some situations, it is less effective in others and can make for visually boring or uninteresting photos if overused.
To add visual interest, variety and sometimes drama to a photo, consider placing the main subject off center. A popular technique used by photographers to achieve that is called the “Rule of Thirds.” While looking at the example imagine a grid like the ones used in a “tic-tac-toe” game that is created using two horizontal and two vertical lines. Placing the main subject in a photo off-center and at the intersection of any two of those imaginary lines can help make the image more compelling and add visual interest, energy and sometimes even drama.
Photos made using the Rule of Thirds also reveal more of the background in the scene which can help to convey a sense of the place where the image was made. The four photos above show examples of off-center composition based on the Rule of Thirds. If you study each one closely you’ll notice how the main subject is located near the intersection of those imaginary grid lines.
IMPORTANT: Although it is called a “rule,” the Rule of Thirds is simply another technique you can select from in certain situations to add interest and help guide the viewer’s eye toward the main subject. And, like other techniques, if overused can lead to boring photos.