rule of thirds in photography

Use the rule of thirds in bird photography when you can



The rule of thirds in photography is perhaps the most searched for rule regarding composition.

It is very commonly used in creating a nice balance to your composition.

It's one of the simplest composition rules to use.

I often use it when I do landscape and nature photography.

No as often with bird photography.

Here's how the rule works:

Simply imagine dividing a photo into thirds (both horizontally and vertically).

You'll have an imaginary 9-part grid overlaid on top of your image as a guide.

Place your center of interest at one of the four intersections.

Rule of Thirds Comparison of Three Photos

The three photos above show how the use of the rule of thirds in photography can be used to improve composition. Photo 1 shows a classic photo mistake in composition.

In photo 1 I divided the photograph in half by composing with the horizon going right through the middle of my picture. Photo 2 is an improvement because I placed the horizon at a one third spot in my camera's viewfinder.

In the third photo I used 3 different leading lines to converge close to an intersection of a vertical and a horizontal 1/3 line. It's not an award winning photograph, just a good example of how to improve your photography by changing your composition.

Rule of Thirds - Horizontal Diagram

The rule of Thirds has been around for a long time.   It's not just used as a guide in photography composition.

This composition tip has been used in painting, art and design for a long time, perhaps since the time of the art created by the caveman. ;-)

It says you should divide your viewfinder into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.

You are dividing the picture in thirds, side to side, and top to bottom. 

Rule of Thirds Shown on a Vertical Composition

Those imaginary lines intersect at 4 points in your field of view.

As you look through your camera viewfinder or at the screen on the back of your camera or camera phone, points of interest in your photograph should be placed at or close to the intersection of the lines, shown by the circles in the illustration. 

This gives the photo more energy and interest. In the photo to the right the sun was placed close to one of those intersecting lines and the treeline and pavilion were placed in the bottom third of the photograph.

Here is the resulting nature photo with good composition.

Rule of Thirds Used to Compose This Winter Scene

It was taken with my Canon 5D just after a snow storm. It was quite cold and I kept my camera inside the front of my jacket. Batteries lose their power quickly in cold weather.

I made about 100 exposures over a two hour period.

Many of the photos were similar. I shoot different angles of the same scene, using different zoom amounts and different distances from my subject.

This gives several different photo perspectives. After a shoot with so many images, the fun begins when I do all of my photo editing.

In the self portrait below, I used three photo composition rules. Photo 1 shows how an amateur photographer might take the picture. In photo 2, I used the rule of thirds and placed my head at one of those imaginary intersections of those vertical and horizontal composition lines.

Secondly, I also changed to a better format by turning my digital camera to make it a vertical composition instead of a horizontal. Thirdly, I tilted my camera at an angle to create a diagonal line.

Comparison of Two Photos.  The one on the Right Used The Rule of Thirds in Photography

Photo 2 is not an award winning photo either, but you can see how much of a better photo it is. With learning just a few tips like the rule of thirds in photography and a bit of practice, you will become a better digital photographer.

Sometimes it's a good thing to break the guidelines of good photo composition, but only if it improves the photograph. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't; but it's fun to experiment. The best way to learn is by making mistakes.

With digital photography, if you don't like the result, you can either delete your photo or do some cropping of you image later to make it a better photograph.

Dividing your photo by these imaginary lines is just one easy way to take better photographs and it's very easy to remember.


articles related to rule of thirds

Photo Composition Tips.

 The rule of thirds in photography is a great tip to use, but it is only one element. Here are nine more good photography composition tips.

Composition in Photography. If you are interested in discovering how the use of balance and artistic patterns effect composition in photography, you will enjoy reading this.

Make sure you enjoy yourself and have fun while practicing.

Here are some more Examples of the Rule of Thirds in Photography.


Happy Shooting!
Photo TipMan


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