Rules of Third – Week 1 of Project 52

The Rules of Third is the most basic of all and the first that photographers learn on compositional rules. While others have seen it on their smartphones or digital cameras, they don’t know what it is for and how to best use it. In this article I will give a little backgrounder on how I stumbled upon the rules of third and how I use it.

When I first started taking photos with my first smartphone, a Nokia N8, I would usually place the person or the subject in the center of the shot. I didn’t know about the composition rules back then that would had made the photos more interesting and convey more information to the one looking at it. I just keep taking shots of people, places and scenes that piqued my interest and then post it on social media or in this blog.

Fireworks display 2017

Tree of light. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM IS II.

 

Now I was getting comments that although I was taking good photos but something was lacking. That is when I started digging deeper on how to improve my shots. The first and the most important one in my opinion is composition and there are many ways of composing a shot but the most basic and readily available to everyone now who has a smartphone or digital camera is the Rules Of Third.  So what is it? Basically you divide your scene into thirds by imagining 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines evenly spaced from each other placed across your shot. After having done that you make it a point to put your subject or what is important for you along those lines if it cannot be placed at the intersection. With the advent of digital photography you can go to the settings menu of your camera or smartphone and if available you will see something like “turn on grid” option.

It is great for landscape photography or travel photography but how about portrait photography? In the portrait images below I was able to apply the rules of third to each image.

Caught between emotions. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM IS II.

The nymph. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM IS II.

In my style of portrait photography, the eyes is the most important part of the composition in a shot similar to the one above. So I would make it a point to have one of the eyes if not both eyes on the top horizontal line and if possible be on the intersection of two lines.

Something on my shoulder. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM IS II.

For this shot since the model is not looking at the camera as per my instruction, I still kept one of the eyes along one of the lines, then the lips and then the chest area which for me is what makes this photo work for me.

Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM ISII

The lake. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM IS II.

Another example where the model is not looking away from the camera, the eyes, lips and chest area are all along the lines.In the shot above, I put the blocks along one of the vertical lines, the cottage though partly hidden by the tree at the intersection. One look at the photo and you are drawn to look at the blocks till the end of it which leads to the cottage. Yes, I used another compositional tool in this shot. Can you guess what is it? Leave your comment.

One important fact to remember that you should not limit your shot to the Rules Of Third but instead use it as a tool to come up with a better shot. Study the rule, master the rule, bend the rule, break the rule.

Next post will be about getting great shots straight out of camera or SOOC. No editing.

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