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Composition - Rule of Thirds

Original article:  Composition - Rule of Thirds

Painters have long used the rule of thirds in composing their master pieces. By dividing the canvas into thirds (3rds) on the vertical and the horizontal planes, the painter achieved a more pleasing and balanced painting by placing the subject on one of the lines.

Photographers can use the same technique of the rule of thirds. When you hold your camera up to your eye, imagine the focusing plane as a grid of lines - compose your subject on one of the lines - presto, you have moved your subject from...

Dead Center
A picture with the subject in the dead center tends to be static and uninteresting. The rule of thirds works just as good on the horizontal and vertical planes. In the picture of the tree and dome in Yosemite, the tree is near the left vertical third and the horizon is on the lower horizontal third. It's an example of the rule of 3rds utilizing both the horizontal and vertical planes.

The rule of thirds is another technique when practiced will help you think about the photograph you are taking. This thought process will help photographers to try different compositions. But remember, it's not an exact science - don't restrict yourself to the exact 3rd. Here are a few more tips to consider:

Judging the Sky
Is the sky dramatic? Then place the horizon on the lower third portion of your composition. Is the sky doing nothing for you? Place it on the upper third portion of the rule of thirds.

The two pictures to the left practice the rule of thirds by composing the horizon away from the dead center of the picture.

Tight Crop
When you are in tight on the subject, you can still practice the rule of thirds. By placing the prominent feature of the subject on a vertical or horizontal third you can still make the photograph more interesting. In the case of a person (or statue of a person) the eyes are a good feature to use.

This will help you compose the photograph while avoiding the tendency to place the subject matter dead center. Even though, on a tight crop, there isn't much (if any) background it's important to keep the rule of thirds in mind.

Don't neglect the background
Don't forget the negative space - the background or negative space is everything but the primary subject. If possible place something of interest in the background. Like the monk picture, after composing the monk off center, I was able to place Angkor in the background. The monk and the temple compliment each other without stealing the show.

Break the Rule
Live dangerously and break the rule of thirds ever once in a while! Remember it's not an exact science! Be creative! Don't limit yourself to a set way of seeing! Go ahead, break the rules, and try new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but unless you try you will never know.

That is way too much geometry for one day, so get out there.

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