If you are into photography world, you should have heard the term "Rule of Thirds" by now. And if you are here reading this blog, that means you want to know more about the rule, right? When you are taking any photography courses or learning the basics of photography, you should have come across the term at least once. It is probably the most well known and the widely talked principle of photography composition. Even though it is one of the few rules for composing photographs, it is not necessary to follow the rule of thirds every time you shoot. Sometimes you may produce an excellent shot without the rule being applied and sometimes the rule may come handy to make your picture look more appealing to the viewers. Sometimes, photographers who know already know about the rule, breaks the rule and apply their own. I do not disagree with this argument and sometimes rules are meant to be broken.
But if you want to break the rule, it is important to know more about the rule that you are breaking and find out what kind of impact would the rule have made into your photographs. You can't just say that I am breaking the rule of thirds in this photograph without knowing what the rule of thirds is about. I have not necessarily followed the rule myself every time when I go out and shoot but sometimes applying the rule had made really big difference on how the picture draws the viewers attention into it. Let’s talk briefly about the rule first, and then you can apply it in your composition or break the rule if you find it necessary for the photograph.
What is the Rule of Thirds?
Rule of Thirds is a photographic composition principle where you break down your photographs into a third, both horizontally and vertically, like a tic-tac-toe board so that you have a total of 9 equal boxes framed inside the photograph. While you are composing the shot, you would imagine these boxes in your mind while watching through the viewfinder. After you draw the rule of thirds grid on your mind, it gives you few important parts (four intersecting points and four lines; horizontal and vertical) of the photograph where you should consider placing the point of interest so that the viewers find the picture more attractive and natural. Some of the DSLR cameras come with an option to have a actual grid displayed on the viewfinder screen while composing the shot. And as you practice more and be comfortable with composing the shot according to the rule, you can remove the grid display from the viewfinder (if it is distracting) or continue to use it if it is helping you to compose the shot.
The theory behind the rule of thirds is when you place the point of interest of the photograph on the intersection points or along the lines, photograph will be more balanced and look natural to the viewers. It makes the use of natural tendency of the human eye to be more strongly drawn towards these intersections rather than to the center of the shot.
When you shoot portrait photographs, eyes are the natural focus point and you should consider aligning the body to one of the vertical lines. Usually, same is true for the wildlife photography as well with some exception.
Likewise, when you are shooting landscape, it is a good practice to position horizon along with one of the horizontal lines so that the picture look more structured and well balanced.
Even if you can't frame the subject using the rule of thirds during the composition, it may not be that big of a deal nowadays thanks to the high resolution digital cameras and the varieties of the post processing tools available in the market. While you are editing the picture on the computer, you can display the rule of thirds grid during the cropping process and can also drag the grid around to place the point of interest according to the rule and crop the image once you are satisfied with the composition.