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The Rule of Thirds and Photography

The Rule of Thirds and Photography

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Published by: adrian_caballero_3 on Jan 23, 2011
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09/11/2011

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The Rule of Thirds and Photography
 
Good photography requires a combination of technical expertise as well as artistic creativity.Unfortunately, the rise of digital technology has focused the attention of many beginners on the purely technical aspects of photography. All too often, the artistic side of photography is neglected."Dead tree" captured by Jim K.If you bought a great digital camera and your photos still look like snapshots, it is not the fault of yourequipment. Perhaps it is time to start looking at your subjects with a more creative eye, and think a littlemore about good composition.
 Where to start?
Well, most experienced photographers will tell you the best place to start is
the Rule of Thirds
. What is the rule of thirds? It is a sort of guideline to help you structure your composition in a balanced way that pleases the eye. Like all rules, it is made to be broken, but we will look at that later. Experience will give you the confidence to decide when you need to apply the rule of thirds, and when you can get by  without it. However, before you can make that decision you need to understand the rule and how it works.Imagine the rectangular shape of any photograph. Now draw a horizontal line one third from the top of the frame, and another one third from the bottom. Then draw a vertical line, one third from the left, andanother one third from the right. Your rectangle should now be divided into nine equal sections.
 
 According to the rule of thirds, the lines that divide the picture into thirds are the most effective places toposition objects in your photo. So, for example, the horizon should be positioned on or near the line athird from the top or a third from the bottom of the picture. Vertical objects like trees should be placed onor near the lines a third from the left or right of the picture. Also according to the rule,
the most powerful points in the composition are the areas where thelines intersect.
So, if your horizon is a third from the top of the frame, a house or tree on the horizon would be best placed a third from the left or right, at the intersecting point of the horizontal and verticallines. If you have positioned a tree along one of the vertical lines, a bird sitting in a fork of the tree would be best positioned where it intersects with the horizontal line a third from the top."The Spotted Eagle" captured by Richard SchneiderIf this seems hard to follow, sketch it out and it will start to make sense.If this seems a little too structured and organized for the real world, that¶s because in most cases it is. After twenty years in photography, I can tell you that nature is not so neatly packaged for ourconvenience. You cannot expect all the objects in your photos to fall into place according to the Rule of Thirds. However, by using the rule as a general framework, you can begin to create structure in yourphotography  Why does the rule of thirds work? Don¶t know, don¶t need to know. But it does work. It satisfies our senseof visual proportion, so that photos structured in this way appear balanced in the eye of the viewer. You
 
can prove this for yourself right now, just by looking at a book of your favorite photos. When you apply theframework to each picture, you will probably find that most of them, at least loosely, fit the rule of thirds.Many photographers have a natural sense of visual balance. They take their photos according to the ruleof thirds without being aware of it. They may simply shoot the picture that µlooks right¶ or µfeels right¶ tothem, unconsciously applying the rule as they go. For new photographers who are struggling withcomposition, this simple guideline will make a world of difference. In time, and with experience, these beginners will develop their own natural µfeel¶ for composition. Am I suggesting that every photo must be taken using the rule of thirds? Is any photo that falls outsidethese guidelines a failure? Absolutely not.Some photos are made more effective by deliberately ignoring the rule of thirds. It is possible to focus the viewer¶s attention on a particular feature, by positioning it where we would not normally expect to see it.Shaking up the viewer¶s sense of visual balance can add real impact to a photo if it is done well. I can give you a very simple example from my field of nature photography. A sunset photo is usually all about the sky. A photographer can add impact to the sky by lowering thehorizon to well below the µnormal¶ horizon level. The result will be a sky that really towers over theforeground and imposes more strongly on the entire picture."gloria illuminata" captured by David Hobcote

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