Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds photography

The beauty of art is that it is never confined by any rules.  After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Totally.  But...and a big but...attention to detail, understanding structure and composition can really help define your style and is an essential educational foundation to artistry.  Art has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and the Rule of Thirds (ROT) was something that I had learned early on.  I assumed everyone understood it.  That is, until a friend of mine took my DSLR for a spin and came back with some interestingly framed subjects.  I realized...Holy shit.  This is something that needs to be taught!  So whether you're' dabbling in to photography or simply want to impress your friends with some cool artistic Instagram shots, here is what the whole Rule of Thirds is about.

Visually divide your frame into nine equal sections.  Essentially, you're creating two imaginary horizontal and vertical lines as you look in your view finder or framed shot.  The ROT creates balance and harmony in the composition of your photo when you place your subject on the cross points or intersections of your imaginary grid lines. 

For my visual explanation, I'll be using my lovely model, Ashley standing in front of Aloft Hotel's fun.crazy.loud wall mural.  In the photo below, I placed Ashley in the center of the frame.  What I'm saying behind this shot is Look at her.  I mean, the wall is cool but JUST LOOK AT HER! No distractions, just her.  She is my shot.

Rule of Thirds explanation
Rule of Thirds explanation

In the shot below, I decided to place her along the third right side of the frame.  Ashley's face is directly on the top right cross point.  This time, I'm saying This is Ashley.  And this wall is fabulous.  Ashley and wall are in perfect harmony.  The empty space in this frame is visually pleasing as it balances with the subject but leaves the viewer intrigued. 

Rule of Thirds Photography

The subject doesn't have to be exactly within the grid lock cross hairs.  It can be within or around that area.  In the photo below, I have Ashley to the left third of the frame and within the empty spaces of the grid locks.  This time I'm saying That wall is so fun.  I love the story it's telling.  And this model is gorgeous.  The wall is so awesome.  Ashley is so awesome.  Separately, they both have individual stories.  Together they create a pleasing and consistent whole. 

Rule of Thirds Art

The photo below is an example of a shot where the ROT is not applied.  The focus is not centered it's just a tad bit off to the left.  Does this not annoy the shit out of you??  It leaves me queasy to be quite honest and I really can't stare at this much longer. 

Rule of Thirds bad.jpg

To avoid shots like these I would apply my Rule of Thirds and shoot one of the two (or both) photos below:

Focus is centered.

Focus is centered.

Focus is to the right third of the frame.

Focus is to the right third of the frame.

Okay.  I feel so much better. 

Again, the ROT is not a requirement but more of a strategy and a choice.  There are artists who abide by it and there are artists who could care less about it.  Personally for me, as a wedding photographer, I care very much about this rule and find the ROT so visually and aesthetically pleasing to my eyes and showcases the vibes of the shots just the way I see it and feel it in real-time. 

I hope I was able to pass on some valuable information.  If you have any questions, suggestions, or thoughts feel free to leave a comment!
Thanks for reading.
Hannah Q.