The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a method of composing an image to give the most pleasing appearance, balance and proportions. Good and experienced photographers might compose images with an ideal balance and do it intuitively. For those still working on this skill, following the Rule of Thirds as a guideline is a good training aid.

The Rule refers to the proportions of the image and to the layout of the main subject matter within it.
The standard 35mm format is 36mm x 24mm which is already our ideal proportion. Digital image format is also the same proportion. 
That gives us a head start.

The proportions and positions of the components in the picture are usually within the control of the photographer.

one third grid

Here is the image shape divided into thirds. The idea is to position horizons and key items on the lines of thirds and at intersection points. 


The Photoshop Crop Tool has the option of placing a grid of thirds over the image. The image can then be cropped to position the horizon one third up into the picture. 

crop tool

Dragging the Crop Tool across this image of the scarecrow in the corn field, the grid can be positioned to place the horizon line one third up and the scarecrow on one of the intersection points. 

sample images

The second, cropped image now has a stronger and more balanced composition than the original.

Photography cannot be done by numbers and being too hooked on such a system starts to go that way. It should be used merely as a guide. 

Horizons don't have to be one third up from the bottom of the picture or one third down from the top. A horizon can divide the image into equal halves or be right at the bottom of the image - it can depend on the mood to be conveyed.

Ultimately good photography comes down to feeling. With experience and the right eye, good composition comes naturally. 

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