Back to Blog
Blog header graphic for a post about the rule of thirds in photography

Nailing Composition: The Rule of Thirds Demystified

composition creative technique Oct 25, 2023

Ever pondered why some photos instantly draw you in, whilst others simply don't? Often, the magic ingredient is a splash of solid composition, and one of the key techniques to master this is the "Rule of Thirds.”

It's All About the Grid
Picture a noughts-and-crosses board laid over your camera's viewfinder or screen. This is your Rule of Thirds grid: two horizontal lines crossed with two vertical ones, dividing your image into nine equal sections.

The trick is to align the main elements of your scene along these lines or, even better, at the points where they intersect.


Why It's a Winner

  • Visual Harmony: Placing your subject along these lines or intersections brings a balanced feel to your image, far more gratifying than a pic where everything is dumped in the centre.
  • Dynamic Quality: The Rule of Thirds livens up your composition, inviting the viewer's eyes to dart across the image, making the whole experience more engaging.
  • Centre Stage for the Subject: Pop your subject at one of these intersections, and it's like giving them the leading role in a film. The eyes are drawn straight to it.
  • Guiding Lines: Consider these grid lines as the sat-nav for your viewer's eyes, leading them through the photo. This adds a lovely sense of depth to your image.
  • Space to Breathe: Ever feel hemmed in looking at a photo? This rule helps you steer clear of that by including negative space, giving your subject room to breathe.
  • A Fuller Story: This method allows the inclusion of other background elements, offering context and narrative depth to your main subject.
  • Down with Dullness: Ditch the monotony by moving your subject off-centre. Trust me; predictability is nobody’s cup of tea.
  • Natural Scanning: The Rule of Thirds mimics the way our eyes naturally scan an environment, making your snap feel familiar and just right.
  • Pure Professionalism: This is no mere fad; it’s a standard across art and design sectors, revered for its knack of boosting aesthetics.
  • Freedom to Play: And here's the twist—it's more a 'guideline' than a rule. Feel free to throw it out the window if your creative soul feels the urge.


Giving It a Whirl
Fancy trying it out? If you’re capturing a landscape, aim to line the horizon up with either the top or bottom horizontal line.
For portraits, try to situate the eyes along the top horizontal line for a shot that really engages.



Final Thoughts
So, there we have it! The Rule of Thirds isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky idea; it’s a potent tool intended to boost your photography game. But remember, it’s not set in stone. Feel free to bend or even break it if that’s what your artistic spirit fancies.

Happy shooting, and may your compositions always be spot-on!



Our weekly Tips and Techniques email is FREE.

Sign up today, unsubscribe anytime.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.

Don't miss out on unlocking your full photography potential. Join the MYP community on a monthly subscription to gain exclusive access to photo critiques, expert tutorials, and a network of like-minded photographers. Transform your skills from amateur to awe-inspiring.

Tell me more