There are several important rules of composition, but the first one you should master is the rule of thirds. With this one simple skill you will go from taking snapshots to making images. Put simply, think of a Tic-Tac-Toe grid overlaid on your image and then place the subject on the lines as best you can. If you can put an important element directly on the intersection of two lines, then you get an even more powerful image — look at wither the photo to the right or the one above for examples.
Rule-of-Thirds in Portraits
To master the rule of thirds, look no further than something we all do a lot: taking the simple portrait shot. Aim to put the eyes right on the top line — that works really well to add some extra pop to the image.
Indeed, if we add the lines to the photo, you can see that this portrait works well because of the careful composition. Putting the subject’s eyes right on the top line provides maximum impact for the viewer.
Here’s another example. In this one, one of the subject’s eyes are right at an intersection of two lines, and her body is along the bottom line.
The intersections of two lines can be a very powerful place to anchor your subject, so let’s take a look at how the lines are used.
Rule-of-Thirds at Large
Check out the next photo, in which I tried to put the lower line on chairs and get the couple as close to the right vertical line as possible. While they aren’t exactly on the line (because I wanted to maintain the small chunk of pier on the left) they are close enough that it helps the overall composition to work well.
As mentioned, the top of the chairs is on the lower third line and the couple is very close to being on the right line.
Getting Rule-of-Thirds In Camera or “In Post”
Most modern cameras have a rule-of-thirds overlay on the rear LCD; some have electronic viewfinders that can do it as well. If you are using Adobe Lightroom, when you choose the crop tool, you will get a rule-of-thirds overlay that helps you to crop and move your image with this important compositional rule in mind.
Try this out yourself and see how well this helps to improve your images.
Welcome Kerry Garrison to eHow! Kerry is a Colorado based wedding, portrait, and commercial photographer who came out from behind the lens to create Camera Dojo, a website that helps photography enthusiasts hone their skills. Whether he is writing tutorials or doing product reviews, Kerry believes in paying-it-forward to give back for all the help he got from other photographers when he was getting started.