Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rule of Thirds

Have you ever looked at a picture and thought, "Wow...that picture is dramatic.  It's nice."  Editing in post production, the price of your camera and lens, the scenery, what a person is wearing and how made up they are all help the overall effect of that picture.  But maybe...just're looking at something that's composed well.

Again, I'm no expert.  But I'm still learning and when I have that light bulb moment, I like to share it with my readers.  One of my first light bulb moments when it came to taking pictures was learning about the rule of thirds.

The name is deceiving, because it's not a rule.  It's more of a guideline.  No one says if you don't use this rule, your pictures fail.  But using this "rule" definitely helped me compose better shots.  So what is it?
The rule states that when framing your shot, you should envision two horizontal and two vertical lines intersecting each other like a tic-tac-toe game.  Placing your subjects near or on where those lines intersect will result in a more compelling photo.  To most people, myself included, when I'm taking a picture, I always tend to want to center my subject.  It wasn't until I started testing out this "rule" was when I realized how much better my photos can turn out.  Here are some more examples:

Michelle Moore Photography

Now this is not to say that a photo can never be centered.  In fact, in certain situations, a centered subject creates more dramatic effect.  But I believe, to compose the subject this way, the rest of your photo need more depth.  In the engagement photo below, Erwin centered Chris and I but you can see how the side buildings created almost like a 3-D effect, which gave more depth and layers to the overall photo.

If you're thinking by this point, "Well this doesn't apply because I only take everyday shots of people", the rule also applies to taking portraits of people.

I know the above photo is a little off center, but imagine if it were completely centered, the rule of thirds would apply to where the subject's eye is aligned.  The eye should align at the top focal line.  If you're taking a full body shot, or if you're taking a multiple subject photo, the top focal line should be aligned to their faces. 

Phew!  That was fun.  I hope this was helpful and I urge you to try this out.  When it comes to photos, just trying it on your camera is the true way to learn.  Everything's digital now, so photos are like free!  Trial and error was how I learned, and I'm still learning.  I also realize I'm not technical and I may have used wrong terms.  But everyone gets the gist right? :)


  1. I didn't get to mention this on your previous post Cindi but I am SO EXCITED about this new adventure you and Chris are embarking upon, it's just really great that you share this love of photography and really working hard on learning everything there is to know. I wish you best of luck and hope to learn a bit from you so thanks for this post!

  2. Yes, very helpful! Thanks!

    I am considering buying a "real" camera and taking some classes. Your blog has been especially helpful in pushing me in this direction and helping me prepare for the purchase. I am really enjoying all of your photography posts:)

  3. I had never thought of these things when taking pictures, but I bet I will now. Thanks for the tips! I love the photo with the Horizon Line Dress - that looks like it's in Pioneer Square.

  4. my hubby Chris is gung ho about photography now and he says you're right on the money! I love all the pics you posted as examples. Like you, my hubby is learning too and he is having a BLAST. he can talk about photography all day and when he does, I say, "Oh yeah, I read that on Cindi's blog." :P

  5. I've never really thought about this before, but it makes a lot of sense Cindi. I'm going to try this from now on. Only problem is...convincing my hubby to try it on photos of me ..hehe
    thanks for the tips!

  6. I love all these great photography tips you've been giving us! They're making me even more excited to get my own DSLR camera so that I can try them out myself :)

  7. Cindi - I have been camera shopping today (yay!) and I would love to ask you a couple of questions about your camera, if you have time. I can't find your email address though. Can you give it to me (or feel free to just email me at kristinfmilner(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for this tidbit, I have never thought about this before but I totally get what you mean!

    Thanks for teaching us photography as you learn!

  9. Wow! This is very helpful! Thank you!