Camera 101: Rule of Thirds

Composing Your Shotspicon.jpg

You just received a new camera for the holidays. Now it is time to take some great dramatic shots over the next year. One thing you can do to make your images more aesthetic is to use the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds is not necessarily a rule, as much as it is a suggestion that tends to add more tension, energy, and interest into your photo. It works like this: when you look through your viewfinder, divide the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically.

We call the points where the lines cross The Sweet Spots. When we look at a big blank area, our eyes do not automatically focus on the very center of the image. Instead, our eyes naturally drift toward one of these points.

So how can you use this bit of knowledge to create beautiful images?

When you shoot a landscape, try placing the horizon along the upper or lower third of the image.


The subject (Castle Rock, KS) is centered in the middle of the shot, which is rather boring.

Place the primary subject or area of interest on the left or right vertical line, with the main interest on the sweet spot.


In this shot, the subject has been moved to the left side with the horizon line placed near the lower third.

Eyes work best in the upper third of the shot.


By leaving too much “headroom” above the subject you cut off the interesting parts of the image.

Don ?t center your subject in the shot. Examine the two images. Which one is more dynamic? The image on the bottom has the subject place near the right sweet spot.


A subject-centered shot can be boring…


…by composing the shot with the subjects along the sweet spots, the image becomes more dynamic. When you compare the images, does the man look more happy in the lower shot?

Finally, it doesn ?t matter what aspect ratio you use, the Rule of Thirds still applies. In the following image, notice the horizon is on the lower third, while the portion of the canyon wall closest to the camera is along the right third.

Remember, in photography or videography, rules are not necessarily set in stone, some very interesting shots can be achieved when you break the rules.

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher is one of those guys that has always loved comics but never got into them until really late in life - like high school in the 80s. He just missed the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but has been around for every major crossover since. Stephen knows his way around video and film production having been a director, producer, editor, and motion graphics artist for projects ranging from small promotional pieces for Wachovia all the way up to regional videos for the Division of Emergency Management. As a prolific writer, Stephen began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen also freelances for the Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog. When not writing, Stephen shares his knowledge as a tenured faculty member at Fort Hays State University. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. Favorite Writers: Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Paul Dini, Adam Beechen, Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges Favorite Artists: Dan Jurgens, Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, Freddie Williams III

2 thoughts on “Camera 101: Rule of Thirds

  • May 28, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Funny thing is that even your centered shots are interesting but thanx a lot for the 1/3s tip. I’d either forgotten or never heard of them. Been 2 years since I’ve had a chance to shoot. Broken VX, no $$$. But I’m HD crazy now, HV20 bought, A1 & HVX on order.

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