Rule of Thirds

23 03 2009

Original Image Image 1

Take a look at the first picture above…honestly, what was first thing  you noticed? Probably the church steeples. But there is way more to the picture than that if you look.  Press on…
The rule of thirds is a great compositional tool photographers use to make a photo more interesting to the viewer. It is a tried and proven method that, although simple to understand, sometimes is difficult to execute.
The rule is simply to envision a tic tac toe board, then try to put your subject approximately where there is an intersection of the lines.  There are many better  explanations from other people, but, in a nutshell, that’s it!  The rule of thirds gives a little more drama to the picture and makes it not so static. In the picture, there is water, sky and a church.  Also there is a barge in the water. I took this photo while southbound on the Mississippi River in Reserve, Louisiana.
There are several ways to fix this picture where it makes the viewer’s eye wander a bit and take in the whole picture, instead of just seeing the steeples of the church instantly and not noticing the rest of the beauty of this sunrise. Also, the barge is not really recognizable by those who have not seen barges, or might even think to look for one. My close friends would know to expect barges, boats etc. in my photos because they know I travel the Miss. River very frequently. But I don’t want to make my pictures noteworthy just to those  who know me, I want the entire world to enjoy it.
Since I have a long horizontal plane in this picture that is land, I need to figure out which is more important, land or water for the viewer to enjoy. As it is in this first image, the land is in the center and I have equal distance above and below it. So I choose to show more sky as the clouds are more interesting than a lot of water.
The church is on the land fairly close so this will make the crop easier. And since the barge is not something I want to include, it works out to cut it out in the crop also.

Image 2 Image 2

See how the lines really don’t intersect in with anything in image 2?  The beauty of the rule of thirds is coming!

Keep in mind that I am cropping this picture after the fact. It works, but I would have had a more usable picture if I had composed it correctly that bitter cold morning when I stepped outside of the boat. But as it was, I didn’t have but a second and I didn’t think about composition before hand. That part I was still learning .

Image 3 Image 3

Now that the crop is completed (image 3), look where the lines are. The horizontal land mass is on a bottom third of the frame. The key subject which is the Church is really close to being centered on the intersection of the lines. Looking at the last  and finished frame, notice how the image has more interest to it.  There are several things to look at now, and it all ties in together to make a pretty picture. Now that you know this rule of thirds, look at any image you see and decide how the photographer composed the shot. You will start looking at pictures with this rule in mind and automatically place you Imaginary lines across the image. . When taking your own pictures apply this technique when looking through the viewfinder. Try several different options before you release the shutter or,  take several shots of the image and decide later which was the best composition. Example-more water or more sky, barge or no barge.  Where do I place the subject in the frame to maximize the aesthetic qualities? That is up to you and does take practice.

Image 4 Image 4

Last note. There are times when the rule of third s just doesn’t work. Until I get that lesson written out , think about when that might apply. And remember the rule of thirds is only one tool for the photographer and not necessarily an always thing. But it does work wonders to make your shots look more professional




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