The Rule of Thirds is a theory dictating how an image should be composed in order to create an aesthetically pleasing result. In all honesty, it’s more of a guideline than an actual rule. The principle involves splitting an image into nine equal parts. First, you draw two lines vertically (in your mind, don’t whip out a pencil) to form three evenly-spaced sections. Then draw two more lines horizontally. You now have nine equal-sized squares. For the most visually arresting photo, your subject or subjects should land where any two lines cross. For those counting at home, that gives you four options for focus in one composition.
To give you an idea of what the Rule of Thirds looks like, here are 15 great examples by independent photographers just like you.
In this stunning nature shot, the artist emphasizes the various hues and organic shape of flora by placing the tip of the stick at the top left cross section of the imaginary guide, created by the Rule of Thirds.
Cup of Tea #1
The yellow lemon slice floats delicately in the center of the teacup, drawing the eye not only because of its color, but also because it sits at the bottom right cross section of the guide.
The delicate sprinkles of the blue confection’s shell are the first thing the eye takes in before moving to his yellow buddy with black seeds, and then over to the stack of other vibrantly hued treats, thanks to the Rule of Thirds.
Raindrops With Bokeh
Not all examples of the Rule of Thirds in photography feature vertical alignment. In this photo, the subject is horizontal, but the philosophy is still applied. Those water droplets create a cross section of their own with the blades of leaves.
Watch, Fountain Pen and Note Book
Even simple compositions are improved by the almighty Rule. Though this image is a collection of three related items, they create a picture with depth thanks to how the eye moves around the objects.
Byke Ride Close Up
Besides the wonderful use of color here, the bike rider is blurred around the main area of focus: her gear shifter and the right edge of her hand.
Difficulties sometimes arise when taking a particularly long or wide shot, but application of the Rule keeps the composition interesting and guides the eyes through the illuminated openings and textured ridges of the wall.
Chia on a Wooden Spoon
All those tiny pieces of chia seed come into perfect focus in the bottom right section of the grid with the straying seeds drifting off in all directions. The spoon handle also follows the grid line.
Foamy Latte on the Edge of a Chair
The precarious location of this steamy cup of Joe serves as a pedestal to the coffee’s monument. Coffee is often an essential tool in any artist’s collection, so it makes sense it should be honored with the Rule.
Fun to say and fun to eat, this image captures the ruby red ripeness of fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes by piling them up near the top and bottom left side cross sections.
iPhone in a Workplace
Form and function appropriately combine in this pro-marketing picture. Even advertisements benefit from sound theories, and this one places the smartphone immediately in the right side crosshairs.
Making Coffee Latte Barista
Coffee again: it’s a very popular subject for artists, as the beverage and its rituals are rich in texture and visual interest. This picture has many more elements, but the action of pouring the frothed milk is clearly the main subject.
There are lots of game pieces in this photo, but the ones in focus are placed–you guessed it–where the grid lines cross. The grid that exists on the board only adds to the beauty.
The subject doesn’t have to be perfectly placed in the crosscut, as in this picture, which has only the edge of the brightly purple headband in the aforementioned sector. However, it is the main element (the color also suggests this), so the Rule still applies.
Go Try It!
Many theories, principles and suggestions offer insight into how to be a great photographer, but the Rule of Thirds is an essential piece of advice for all artists and admirers of art. These examples should help elevate your next collection, whether you’re making or buying it.