November 6, 2016

Beyond The Rule Of Thirds

Filed under: basic photography, photography, Travel — spanjavan @ 7:04 pm

The rule of thirds is a very simple idea on composition that can be easily explained without getting into a more complex concept of visual flow and balance.  You draw two imaginary vertical lines to divide the frame into three equal vertical sections and two imaginary horizontal lines to divide the frame into three equal horizontal sections.  One of the 4 intersection points becomes a sweet spot for placement of the main subject.  The illustration below is from Wikipedia.


Source: Wikipedia

As explained in the Wikipedia article, the rule of thirds is not a governing rule.  It’s a rule of thumb based on a general practice of the visual balance that often works, but not all the time.

When I compose my image, I generally start with the idea of placing the main subject off the center and then look for other visual elements to make up for the visual balance.  I don’t make it a mandate that the subject has to be at one of the rule of thirds sweet spots. Although that ended up being the case a majority of the time, I treat the rule of thirds as composition tool rather than a guiding principle.   Every once in a while, I would end up with something deviating from it.  Below are a few examples of such case.

The picture below was taken in Southern Thailand.  It’s of a fisherman taking his long-tail boat out early in the morning to collect fish traps he laid the previous night.  I placed him well left of the rule of thirds sweet spot but the composition works for me, perhaps because of the counter balance from the boat that has a visual draw toward the right.  If I placed him right on the lower left sweet spot, I would have left too much negative space on the left side of the frame that tilted the overall visual balance toward the right.



The second picture below was taken in the evening at the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge in Dallas, Texas.  The bike stands out as a stationary object among blurry moving people.   I placed it well left of the rule of thirds sweet spot because the overall visual balance from the elements from the right works out better for me.



The picture of tree and sunrise below was also taken in Southern Thailand.  I placed the sun almost in the middle of the frame. The sun with its radiating light essentially fills the entire frame.  This image literally breaks to rule of thirds. To me, this composition better conveys the idea of intense sunlight.



The rule of thirds, being easy to understand, is an excellent learning tool on beginning composition and on occasions a good starting point for composing an image in practice.  Beyond that, instead of being concerned about conforming to the rule of thirds, it would be many times more fulfilling to rely more on your creative instinct and experience to make the final decision on what your image will look like.



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