"Why is the Rule of Thirds so hard to understand and put into practice", asked one of our students recently. In theory, the Rules of Thirds should be easy to understand, yet it can take the fun out of photography in practice. Ultimately, applying this composition rule should become second nature, like the difference between learning a golf swing and playing the game effectively. To the pro's their golf swing (or their photograph composition) become natural and thus fun.
We will try and make taking a good picture, composing a photograph easier to understand. First, what is this Rule of Thirds?
According to Wikipedia:
"The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections."
Since we are speaking about photography, a visual example will help explain how to create a balanced composed photography.
See Example #1: Rule of Thirds
Through the viewfinder, place the main subject along one of the cross-lines and/or at one of the intersections. Eyes are the first thing that will be seen by the viewer of your photograph. This applies to people and pets and wildlife. The goal should be to place the subject's eyes at an intersection or along one of the lines, as in this example.
Placing the horizons in photographs of landscapes or skylines should be placed at the top or bottom 1/3rd cross-line. Once again, the following two photographs will help illustrate this concept.
See Example #2 - Horizon's at the top 1/3rd cross-line:
See Example #3 - Horizon's at the bottom 1/3rd cross-line:
Keep it simple: During the process of learning the Rule of Thirds, try not to center your main subject - consider moving your subject up or down, left or right. This simple step will help you to quickly begin to see the difference in your pictures. It takes practice; take a few different photos of your subject, moving your main subject into different areas of your viewfinder. Study the differences on your computer and share with friends to see which one appears balanced and pleasing.
Once you master this composition rule, you can break it to create different moods or add a strong drama to your photographs. Akin to the professional golfer that changes their grip for a tricky shot, so can the photographer. However; learn the rule and make it as second nature as possible first and then you will have taken your photography to a higher level.
And keep it fun... always keep the fun in photography.