the rule of thirds in photography - in camera

Example of rule of thirds in photo of sunset

The Rule of Thirds in Photography can be used almost instantly to improve a photograph. Good use of other composition rules such as balance, leading lines and perspective are often more involved.

With the inclusion of zoom lenses on almost all digital cameras, it is simple to zoom in or out to recompose your photo and employ the rule of thirds at least to some extent.

What is the photography rule of thirds?

With the exception of cell phone cameras, you can adjust your composition by changing the the magnification and combine that with a slight change in your cameras direction to achieve a better photo.

Rule of Thirds in Photography - Easy way to adjust composition in camera

The photo on the left shows the single biggest photography mistake people make in terms of composition, The Bulls-Eye technique. That is, placing your focal point, your center of interest directly in the middle of you photograph.

The photo on the right used the rule of thirds. I zoomed in a bit and I aimed my camera just a little more to the left. This moved the two towers to about a one-third the distance from the right edge of my photo.

Okay, Mr. Photo TipMan, what's the big deal here? This isn't a huge difference in this example. It is an improvement and using the rule of thirds in photography is one way of improving your photography.

Here is another example below of an improvement in composition by using this rule in-camera. The original is on the left. The improved photo is on the right.

In-camera use of the rule of thirds

Here is a very short video below of the same technique used to improve your photography. The rule can be used when shooting video with your camera as well. It is a bit more difficult when you have a moving target as many video clips do.

I was photographing an historic building on a college campus. The standard thing many photographers do is to simple aim the camera directly at the main subject.


The video starts with the standard "BULLS EYE" mentality of aiming your camera directly at the main subject. It shows how easy it is to use the zoom in your camera and aim your camera a bit to one side and apply the rule of thirds in photography.

Here is another example below. Okay, this isn't a good example on how to photograph the moon. I intentionally used an average photo that's , well, just not that good. I really want to get the point across that this is a technique that works on a variety of subjects and not necessarily just for great subjects.

The moon is the center of interest on the bulls eye composition on the right. In the original photo on the left, I composed it by placing the moon at one of the one-third, intersecting lines that the rule of thirds uses.

That re-framing brings in the extra water vapor trail into the photograph. The vapor trail was left by a jet a few moments before.

Rule of thirds examle-photograph of moon

The example on the left has more visual interest. Your eye travels between the moon and the vapor trail cloud. The use of the rule of thirds here created two centers of interest and made the photograph better.

Of course, the saying goes that all rules are meant to be broken. Or is it, all records are meant to be broken? In any case with compositions rules, they should only be used as good guidelines that will help you compose better photographs in most situations.

There are, or course, situations where you will want to break the rule of thirds.


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