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Rule of Thirds

There are many philosophies concerning compositions, which are often referred to as rules. These “rules” exist because they create images that generally are pleasing to the eye and provide a framework for consistent compositions. However, I think of composition rules as guidelines that should be understood as well as challenged from time to time as part of your creative maturation. It’s only through creative exploration that we grow as artists. However, before we go intentionally breaking the rules, first we must understand them!

The most fundamental of composition rules is the rule of thirds. Using this principle, you simply divide your frame into thirds by imagining two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the frame equally. The key to applying this rule is to have your main subject located at or near one of the intersecting points. By placing your subject near these points, you direct the viewer to what you feel are the important elements of the frame.

The rule of third’s horizontal lines provide an excellent guideline for landscape photography. When photographing landscapes, you should generally position the horizon at either the top third or bottom third of the frame (Figure 4.1). Splitting the frame by placing the horizon in the middle is considered less dynamic and doesn’t lend a sense of importance to either the sky or the foreground.

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 Placing the focal point of your image near one of the intersecting lines creates a balanced image, giving your viewer an idea of what is important in the frame while also giving the eye room to roam.

ISO 500 • 1/125 sec. • f/13 • 125mm lens

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