Elements of Composition Pt I – Rule of Thirds

We’ll start today’s post with a question… Does your camera screen have grid lines? Well, let me tell you that those lines are not there just for show!

The grid lines are there to help you achieve proper composition through an element called ‘rule of thirds’.

See, your camera screen is equally divided into segments of 3 columns and 3 rows, or 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines.  These lines make up little squares (9 to be exact!) within your camera screen.

The gridlines. Consisting of 3 columns and 3 rows, or 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines. Note that there are 9 squares. Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Remember how we talked about ‘canvas’, whether created by you or the pre-existing ones in the previous blog post? Well, your canvas will appear inside these gridlines.

If you don’t have these gridlines, you can enable them by going to Settings > Camera > enable Grid. This helps you to utilise the rule of thirds automatically.

This tic-tac-toe board ensures that there is balance in your picture. Every element that you wish to include in your photo is to be placed at the intersecting lines. Thus this element of composition — the rule of thirds — is achieved!

Remember, composition is the art of arranging things into your canvas. The rule of thirds is vital when you want to add balance and interest to your photo.

To explain more about the rule of thirds, the intersecting lines is where the strongest focal points usually line up to. Therefore any important subject or object that you wish to portray through your photography is to be placed there. You can place the subject or object within the intersecting lines, be it on both sides (left and right) or the top and bottom lines.

By doing so, you are pushing the impact of the idea to its maximum.

Another way to put the rule of thirds to your advantage is by placing your subject within the arrangement of boxes. Fill up the 9 squares with your subject and objects. Make use of the space and elements around you to fit your elements into.

We all love minimal photos but by utilising the gridlines, you can have even one subject for your photo but still make it more than enough. Less is always more but make sure you grasp the fundamentals of the rule of thirds when practising your photography.

The main subject of the photo, the raspberry tea is placed in square 5. While the raspberries are placed at the intersecting lines on the top left side. Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash.

Don’t worry if your photo seems to be either too big or the subject is not aligned to the intersecting lines, you can always crop it accordingly later.

What’s important is that you put the theory into practice.

As Edward Weston puts it, “Composition is the strongest way of seeing.”

He’s called “one of the most innovative and influential American photographer…” as well as “one of the masters of 20th-century photography.” Starting off as a photographer who did soft-focus pictorialism, Edward then became the champion for highly detailed photographic images.

It’s no wonder that such a quote would come from a maestro!

As always, a great way to learn how the rule of thirds works for photographers around the world is by… learning through the photos itself.

Take note of how they utilise the lines for their ‘canvas’ and practice the same. Be aware of how they make use of the space and elements around them to fit into the frame. Along the way, you will develop your own way of composing your photo.

Follow the #ruleofthirds hashtag on Instagram for inspiration.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.

Good luck.

Featured photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

Read our Introduction to Composition.

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