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Rule of thirds photography – How to to get the best result (for beginners)

You might have heard about the rule of thirds in photography. This rule is crucial in photography composition. It is a rule that will give you instant result in a different genre of photography, from a candid shot to artistic composition.

If you are struggling to make your photos appealing. rule of thirds is the easiest way to get the result. Best of all, you can do it with any mobile phone camera.

The rule of thirds says that the photo will look more interesting if you position your subject off the center.  The best result is when the subject is at one of the intersections of two vertical and two horizontal imaginary lines on the screen. Note that the lines divide the photos into nine equal size boxes, like a tick-tack-toe.  

Let’s see the example below:

rule of thirds

If you place the subject at one of the imaginary intersection, I can guarantee that your phots will be more natural and attractive.

Why is the rule of thirds work?

Things that happen naturally are not symmetrical in most cases. How people stand, the animal moves, the mountain range unfold, the cityscape being layout usually do not create with the main focus at the center.  Our eyes naturally gravitate towards the interesting subjects which are off-centered in most cases. Reason? It is more visually dynamic and engaging if it is off-centered.

Images taken with the rule of thirds in mind has the subject off the center in harmony with thing happen surrounded us. It is the rule that brings us back to how things are composed naturally, not arbitrarily.

How to set up the grid in the mobile camera

How do I visualize the imaginary grid?  No problem. The rule of thirds grid can be displayed on the screen of most of the mobile phones by activating it in the setting.  What you need is to position the subject at one the four-interception of the grid on the screen.

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Landscape Photography

rule of thirds

The red little house is positioned at the right top intersection of the grid. the two person standing in the water is at the other side to balance the empty space on the left.

Directional Movement

rule of thirds with negative space

The man is placed at the left top intersection of the grid. He looks to the right to lead our attention to the space on the bottom left.

Cropping Using the Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

The main subject (the car in front) is positioned at the left bottom intersection of the photo. The road forms a leading line towards the right top intersection of the photo, balancing the main subject in the foreground.

Most of the camera apps have pre-installed cropping function, which you can apply to comply with the rule of thirds. You can crop the image by using the camera app such as Snapseed. This is an easy way to get the composition you want if you fail to get the perfect framing while taking the photo.

A rule that can be broken

The rule of thirds if the simplest composition rules that yield the most significant result.  However, there are times you want to break the rule. You will internalize the rule of thirds after using it for some time. Eventually, it will become part of your composition instinct without realizing it.

It is not the only composition rules, and we will discuss other ways of getting the best composition in various scenarios in other articles. In the example above, it looks better if the composition of the photo is perfectly square. Square composition highlights the symmetrical balance of the sky and the lake.

My suggestion is to use the rule of thirds as the primary composition rule. However, break it if you feel that it does not look good. After all, we are taking photos not to fulfill the requirement of a rule, but give the best composition perceived by our mind.