LAPC #197: The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds… identifies four power points at the center of each gridline intersection.

Darren Rouse, The Digital Photography School

This week Tina gives us an intriguing challenge. She asks us to explore the Rule of Thirds–a composition principle used in photography and fine art. Her explanation and examples of this rule are terrific. In short, the rule tells us that the human eye is drawn to 4 locations –as pictured on this grid. If we position our subject on or near these 4 points, our photos will be visually pleasing to the viewer and our eyes will linger longer on the photo.

In this photo of a woman kayaking along the Arno River, I positioned her in the upper left quadrant. My eye was also drawn to the motion in this photo and the lines and concentric circles that rippled out from the oars.

For me, an effective photo also needs to include some motion. This can be literal (something is moving in the photo) or optical (the eye is drawn left or right or deeper into the image).

When I processed this photo of my dear sister-in-law, I positioned her along the right quadrant. Her eyes are in the upper third of the grid–a visual “sweet spot.”

I included the wisteria arbor in the background so the viewers’ eyes would be drawn deeper into the photo.

In this photo, the sculpture of the horse’s head takes up about two-thirds of the image. It breaks the rule of thirds. But I also included other visual elements in the background–my dear friend taking a photo of the horse and another room in the Donatello exhibit. I was expecting that the viewer’s eyes would move around the image to explore the other visual details. What do you think? Is it an interesting shot?

When I go out shooting, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking myself these two questions before I click the shutter: What parts of the photo do I want to emphasize? And where am I placing these parts within the frame? As Tina says, rules are made to be broken, but knowing the basic principles of the Rule of Thirds helps me compose the shot and make it more visually pleasing.

A special thanks to Tina for this week’s inspiring theme. Be sure to visit her site to see some great examples of the Rule of Thirds. Last week, your images gave us many laughs. A special thanks to John, our guest host, who wisely chose this theme at a time when laughter is the best “medicine.”

What’s up next? It’s my turn to lead the challenge. So, don’t forget to stop by here next Saturday at noon to join my Light and Shadow challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing your photos. Until then, have a safe and inspiring week!

63 replies »

  1. Well said and shown as always patti. In answer to your question, I love the image with the horse and yes, it is a VERY interesting image.. There is much to see including not only the horse and the woman but also the art in the background. I love it. I also think it does follow the rule because the horse is squarely on the left grid line! I also liked your comment about including motion (of both types). Perhaps an excellent subject for a future challenge??? Terrific post

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your interpretation of the horse image. True…The horse is on the grid line and the details give the viewer some extra visual input. 😀 That was my thinking, too. I love that suggestion for another challenge! Great. 😀😀. Now I have a theme for August!

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  2. I like your photos (including the horse one, although the kayak shot is my favourite). But what really resonated for me in this post is what you said about the two questions you ask yourself before pressing the shutter. I realised I do exactly the same but I wasn’t aware of it until now!

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    • Hi, Sarah. It’s so interesting. I was reading about photo composition techniques and I read those 2 questions and realized I asked myself the same ones! Funny that you did the same thing!

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  3. Great examples Patti! Your kayak images is also a good example of negative space. Maybe that’s why some of the previous photographers preferred it over the horse. Regarding the horse, I think if you had positioned your friend more in the doorway, it would seem less cluttered. Actually, I spent more time with that one. I found it very interesting. And I loved the image of your sister-in-law.

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    • Hi, Anne. Your feedback is very helpful! Yes…negative space. That’s true for the kayak image. I think you’re right about the impression of the other horse shot being “crowded.” Now I wish I had taken another shot of my friend further in the distance! I’m glad you like the photo of my S-I-L. That moment brings to mind a great visit. Have a great week.

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  4. Kayak shot for me, but I was interested in the comments about the horse. I actually liked that one so I had to go back and have another look at it. The photographer in the image is really good, but I see now that the bottom left is a bit busy. Like you I also think to myself about how I am going to position my subject and generally have the rule of thirds in my head, even if I sometimes choose to ignore it.

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    • Hi, Jude. I’m enjoying the comments about the horse photo, too. Fascinating how different people perceive it. I agree that it might seem “busy,” but I’m also interested in the interplay of the horse, my friend, and the background of the museum. All your comments are great. They’re really helpful. 😀😀

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  5. I always find the commentary interesting, Patti, because people have such different outlooks. I liked your comment about motion. I never give that much thought other than when flowers are waving about and I’m trying to capture them.

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    • So true, Jo. I’m really interested in people’s reactions to these images. I love the dialog! I’m thinking now of using the idea of motion in a photo as a LAPC theme. It would be interesting to explore that idea. I hope all’s well and you’re enjoying spring in Talavera. 😀😀

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  6. These are great examples, Patti! Though the kayak is my favorite, I like all shots. To me the story in the image is more important than the “rules” and each photo tells an interesting one.

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    • Um…I really like that, Nes. The story is more important than the rules. I think I agree with that. Funny how I didn’t think the kayak shot would be the favorite this week, but I was wrong!!

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  7. I have to agree about the kayak photo. I’m on the fence about the horse shot. I understand why you did it and I didn’t instantly think it was too busy but there is a lot there. Enjoyed your narrative as well.

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    • I’m finding the conversation so interesting! I love the debate of whether the horse photo is too busy or just right. Thanks so much for your kind words about these photos. Should I be surprised that you like Donatello’s horse??? 😀😀😀😀

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  8. Love the kayaking shot, Patti; the whole image makes the mind see the movement 👏 The shot with the sculpture does as you intended & the eye wanders around looking at everything 😃

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  9. A great post, Patti, varied and special – love the kayak of course, and found the discussion of the horse shot interesting. It IS an interesting shot, and I like it despite the “grin”!

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  10. Patti, the kayak shot is great! At first glance I noticed a straight line with two perfectly shaped, symmetrical circles on either side. This caught my attention and I spent more time looking closely at it. Also, seeing movement was an extra bonus.
    As for the horse sculpture picture, my eyes kept darting from your friend, the window light in the door and the horse. Personally I would have preferred a picture where several subjects were not competing with each other, purely subjective on my part. Am glad you presented this, it made me think! 🙂

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