Rule of Thirds

There are many ways to compose an image to emphasize your subject. One of the most common methods is called the Rule of Thirds. If this was a post about math, there would be a detailed history of Golden Ratios with explanations and a number of equations. This post is about photography, so I’ll just show you. The image below shows a Golden Spiral which is basically a Fibonacci Spiral, it can help you compose a photograph so the viewer is led around the photograph but it only has one focus point.Ducks and girl on path with pond

It can be difficult to imagine a spiral to help compose  the photo in the viewfinder of your camera. The spiral can be rotated with each rotation the center of the spiral would align with the near the intersection points in the photo below.  To simplify the process, we have the Rule of Thirds, where a frame is divided into thirds like the photo below. Rule of Thirds example with ducks and girl on a path

These intersection points help guide you to create an engaging and aesthetically pleasing image.

As you are composing the photograph, put horizon lines and horizontal lines like fences on the lower or upper third lines then arrange trees and strong vertical objects or figures on the vertical third lines. In general avoid placing the most important subject directly in the center rectangle.

Some modern cameras even have the capability to overlay a grid of thirds. Even if your camera does not have the guides built in you can still approximate where the third lines intersections are, using the built-in view finder markers.Nikon viewfinder

Here’s an example of a landscape/seascape and the Rule of Thirds.


Rules can be broken and the Rule of Thirds is no exception. However, if you don’t know the rules you can’t know when to break them.

Send me an email or leave comment if you have any questions.