The Rule of Thirds

If you’re into photography game, you might as well as aware of ‘the rule of thirds’ term. Yes, you can’t find the term in your physics textbook and no, it does have nothing to do with fractions or maths even.

Here is a brief explanation of the rule of third.

The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section.

Source: Wikipedia

How do we apply the rule?

From my observations and purely based on my experience, the rule of thirds is used to create a better composition of an image by making the image to seem to have its own flow. And that’s the hard way to put, am I right?

In a very much easier version to understand the term, I’ll show you with the aid of visuals.

Rule of thirds is just another way to show the image has its own life as I would like to put this way, because the image somehow has its own direction and is composed by emotions when we’re capturing it. It works pretty much well especially when you have a very clear subject that you want to put the whole focus on it when shooting it. That way, the image will not be soulless. This is the way I’d love to put it in.

Your cameras come with the ability to show the grid or guide lines so that you could adjust your position or the camera’s position (or to be more precise its lens we’re talking about) before taking photos.

The guide lines as in my iPod’s camera
Understanding how to apply the rule can help you create a much more interesting image. Image source: Pocket Lenses

From the picture, that’s the whole fractions of the rule of thirds is composed of. The supposition is that you place your most interesting part of a subject at or in between any of the four lines with its weight is placed on any of dots or intersections. Basically, we are trying to create a point of interest out of the image by making the main subject is balanced by the other trivial subjects in the same frame.


Using the rule of thirds for landscape photography could create a more compelling image. The fundamental is by placing the point of interest along the horizon or straight line.

The two strawberries are not exactly on the point of intersection but they are still within the region. The main focus here is the two strawberries which were shot such way that the image would be in the direction to the left.

The rule of thirds is to help us avoid our subject to be precisely right in the middle of the image because sometimes the subject is just not meant to appear that way. Say, you’re shooting a rock that happens to be in some stream or beach, you would not want the rock to be still in the middle.

This is a rock captured in such a way that the rule of thirds was not followed. The photo could be much more well-balanced and interesting if it was not totally and completely in the middle of the grid. The image acquires the whole bottom row of the rule.

Well, maybe some would prefer that way but the image would be much more appealing when the rock is happened to be shot in such a way that the direction or flow can be felt by the viewer.

This whole rule of third also could contribute something to the image ratio or weight. See how I placed the lady on the left side of the grid and it worked well as the lady was actually in the direction to the right.
The subject of interest for this image is the purple mangosteen and it covered almost half of the frame. Not really good example of the rule though but still a nice one to look at.

Wise men once said, rules are meant to be broken. So it is for this rule. I don’t usually live up to the book when it comes to the rule. For some cases, you might want to break the rule as it is your creativity as a photographer, to not just follow the rule all the time.

Breaking the rule means that the image that you’re about to create doesn’t necessarily have to be produced with the rule is practised throughout the whole process. Some images even, can be created awesomely when the rule is not followed.

The image was shot in such way that the main focus is weighted on the small budding flower which was placed right in the middle of the grid. It broke every rule possible.

Most of my shots are usually breaking the rule because some shots are meant to be more interesting when we do them that way.


Below are the some shots taken following the rule of thirds. Try to imagine the lines and how the rule impacted the outcomes.



My advice is to at least know what the rule is all about and how to use it. Practice makes perfect as one would say. Once you know the rule, you break it as it is a way for your creativity to grow. Try to experiment it as much as possible. Cheers!


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