A huge number of different factors go into determining whether or not a photograph is considered to be “good.” The lighting is one of the most immediately obvious factors, for example, as a photo that is far too bright or far too dark will be immediately distracting and will take away from the moment that you were trying to capture in the first place. Composition is another hugely important element, which refers to the way your subjects are arranged in the photograph in association with every other aspect, including the frame itself.
If you want to further your skills as a photographer and learn to capture better photos immediately, there is one shockingly simple technique that you’ll want to learn more about right away. It’s called the “Rule of Thirds” and experts have been teaching it in everything from photography courses to film schools for decades.
What is the Rule of Thirds?
The Rule of Thirds refers to a grid-based compositional system where the frame of your camera is separated into three distinct, equal-sized sections both horizontally and vertically. Think of a standard square image frame, for example, and pretend that it is separated into three equally sized columns by two vertical lines. Now pretend that it is also separated into three equally sized rows by two horizontal lines. What you would be left with is nine equally sized and spaced boxes, all coming together to form the finished camera frame.
This is the Rule of Thirds at work
Basically, what this means is that you should never line your subject up with the dead center of the frame. Doing so will almost always result in a poorly composed photograph. Pretend you were shooting a picture of your best friend with an open field in the background. If you lined him or her up with the center of the frame, you’d have a pretty uninspired-looking image. You may have an image with both your best friend and the field, but everything else leaves a lot to be desired.
Now, pretend that you shifted the position of your best friend in the frame off-center to one of the thirds. Suddenly, one simple technique has not only allowed you to accurately capture your subject but also to add energy, interest and (in certain cases) tension to the photo at the same time.
Using the Rule of Thirds in Your Work
Return to the example of your best friend standing with a field in the background. Pretend that there is a second person that will also be in the photograph. By aligning your best friend on the “left third” of the frame and the second subject on the “right third”, you’ve not only made one quick adjustment to add an interesting flair to your image, but you’ve also added a much-needed sense of depth to the finished product at the same time.
If you want a clear-cut example of how important and widely accepted the Rule of Thirds really is, look no farther than the settings on your camera. Even most “point and shoot” style compact cameras that allow you to adjust settings allow you to turn on a grid-based overlay that will appear over top of your subject in the viewfinder or on the display screen. This grid allows you to literally see where the thirds are of an image, regardless of the shape of the frame that you’re working with. By toggling this one simple setting on, you’ll never have to guess about where one of the thirds are again – you can literally see it.