Rule of Thirds

Photography is an art. Its goal is to capture, produce, and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. Photography creates emotions, and the first impression depends on the compositional balance of the image. There are several composition rules that are important in the process of creating images—without them the photograph lacks expression.

rule of thirds tips

Photo by Rick Harris

Photographers have to learn to apply these rules. They also have to learn how to take advantage of them to enhance the images being captured. Last, but not least, they also have to know and understand when to break them; rules are meant to be broken.

The Rule of Thirds is probably the most spoken rule in photography and the first one taught in any photography course. The rule of thirds is a very effective technique in photography, but it can also produce very interesting shots when it’s broken. Following the rule of thirds will keep your image in balance and help to capture the attention of the viewer.

The rule of thirds can simply be explained as the act of dividing your viewfinder into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The grid will end up with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines that give you 9 equal boxes and four crossing points—a tic-tac-toe matrix.

When composing your image, consider placing your points of interest in the crossing points of the lines and using the four lines as guides to position other elements in your photograph. By placing your points of interest on the crossing points and along the lines your image will be balanced. Viewers tend to look at a photograph in those intersection points more than the middle of the image.

Horizons should be placed on the top or bottom horizontal lines, depending on the focus you want to give to the sky or the ground. An image with a horizon placed right in the center normally comes out looking dull, without attraction. Your main subjects should be placed in one of the intersections and other subjects should be placed in the other intersections. Placing your main object in one of the intersections and placing it in one of the vertical lines will certainly produce interesting and balanced shots.

The rule of thirds has been used not only in photography; as early as 1797 it was used for landscape paintings. The rule of thirds can be used as little or as much as you want; you decide when you want to use it or when you need to use it.

how to use rule of thirds

Photo by Dennis Skley; ISO 100, f/11.0, 1/200-second exposure.

The most important thing about the rule of thirds is that it is a guideline to balance your images; instead of a third you can use a fourth or a fifth, etc., as long as the image as a whole is in balance. Remember to stay away from the center, or in other words, to not place your main subject in the middle of the photograph.

About the Author
Each ‘Photography Project’ is a new challenge for The Duenitas Digital World, which we meet with great motivation and enthusiasm! We are technically proficient under any conditions and work in an unobtrusive respectful way. The Duenitas Digital World is flexible and reacts well to unplanned happenings; capturing the perfect image as we go. The Duenitas Digital World is based in Miami, Florida and covers South Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. We specialize in the following Photography Topics: Weddings, Resort, Real Estate, Product, Family & Event and Commercial Photography. Website: PhotoBlog:

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5 responses to “Rule of Thirds”

  1. Don M. says:

    Joaquin Duenas article on the rule of thirds is one that almost every photographer has known about or at least heard of somewhere along the way but is something very easily over looked when we are busy composing our shot and as such should be re-visited all the time,so thank you Joaquin. This rule while simple in conversation can be confusing in practice. Take for instance the “horizon” rule. If my composed shot has a beautiful cloud formation during a sunset I’ll want as much sky in the composition as possible bringing the horizon to the lower third. If on the other hand the scene is dominated by colorful foliage I’ll reduce the sky and move the horizon to the top third. I know it’s is said that placing the horizon in the center of the scene can be boring but there are exceptions to every rule,even the rule of thirds. An example would be when photographing a perfectly still mirror like body of water with a sunset or other equally interesting objects demanding equal attention in the composition. In this case I have had extremely good results when placing the horizon right smack dab in the middle of he composition. The mirror like body of water reflects everything above it and behide it in a way that will amaze you and those whom you share this photograph with. Just my 2 cents.

  2. cara says:

    your photos are awesome :)

  3. docrob says:

    This is a great article. It is a simple rule that is so hard to follow!!

  4. Keith Maurice Stamp says:

    Your item in the Rule of Thirds really brings to light the mystery that most Photographers find hard to achieve in there images, I found it very well explained and it has made my work in Photography much more easy in the composing of my images.

  5. Lovecows1 says:

    This helps a lot, thanks!

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