When it comes to learning photography, there are some rudimentary rules and skills that everyone needs to understand quickly if they are going to start producing great images.
But the rule of thirds can get you started very quickly in the realm of good composition, even if it's something you should try not to always be bound by.
Published: Mar 2, 2009
Update: Oct 15, 2018 – added links to further resources on the rule of thirds and fixed broken links.
In the world of art and photography composition, no rule is more fundamental than the Rule of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds is basically a compositional guide that recommends that any image should be (imaginarily) divided into nine sections by equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines (like a tic tac toe grid). Any major elements within the image should be placed along these lines and preferably at the points of intersection.
Take this photograph for instance:
As you can see, the tree and the horizon, which are the main elements of the photograph, are placed almost perfectly along the horizontal and vertical lines drawn through the image, with the middle of the tree perfectly on the intersection of the lines. This is a textbook example of the Rule of Thirds in photography.
It is important to remember that the Rule of Thirds is really only a guideline. There are many times when it is acceptable to break this convention. For people who are new to photography, however, it is a good guide to creating well-composed photographs.
Some other images that utilize the Rule of Thirds in their composition:
As you can see, the Rule of Thirds can really help – especially with a basic composition for basic subjects.
Related Light Stalking Rule of Third Articles:
- The Rule of Thirds and How to Break It – A Comprehensive Guide
- Thinking Outside The Rule of Thirds
- Do You Really Know How To Break the Rule of Thirds?
External Resources for the Rule of Thirds:
- Beyond Rule of Thirds: How to Master Photo Composition
- Golden Ratio and Rule of Thirds
- The Rule of Thirds at NYIP
Other Composition Guidelines in Photography:
While the rule of thirds is one of the fundamental composition guidelines of photography, there are many many other ways to compose your photos. It is also important that you don't restrict your own creativity. Here are a few other composition guidelines that you should also take a look at: