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Photo Lesson 101: Rule of Thirds

For those of you who missed out on the class but still want to follow along, here’s another basic composition guideline.

Composition Lesson 3: Rule of Thirds

This week’s rule is found in all visual arts from painting to movies. I was watching last week’s Lost episode and kept noticing the rule of thirds being used during Desmond and Penny’s meeting in the stadium.

Simply stated, this rule is about placing your points of interest 1/3 into the frame.  The ideal placement is about 1/3 of the way both horizontally and vertically.  If you imagine a picture separated by 4 lines, the ideal placement is then close to those 4 line intersections.

Two mini rules that make this easier:

1. Place your horizon at the bottom third or top third line.
2. Avoid placing your subject in the center.

For assignment purposes, follow one or both of the mini rules. I placed 1/3 lines in some of my examples but you don’t need to do that. The rule is just an approximation – you don’t need to have your focal point exactly at the intersection point.

For examples, here are some photos from an engagement portrait session.

I purposefully placed the couple in the center of the photo below. Their serious expressions are reinforced by the almost unsettling symmetry in the composition.

Here’s a landscape shot for variety.


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