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The Rule of Thirds

“If this is the only photography tip you ever learn you won't regret it”


The rule of thirds is one of the fundamentals in photography composition and sounds much more complicated than it actually is. By reading below you will easily learn how to compose well-balanced images that are pleasing and have the right feel to the eye.

The Rule of Thirds explained in simple terms

In your camera or iPhone you will have an option to use a grid that puts lines across your viewfinder or screen, these are the grid lines that show us the rule of thirds.

In photography the first part of the composition the eye is drawn to is known as the main subject or subjects. It’s what our eyes are naturally attracted to. Usually it’s the first thing we notice before noticing anything else in the image.

Anything else pictured is known as the secondary subject and so on.

This is where the rule of thirds helps us out. 

In layman’s terms the rule of thirds tells us that the main or most important subject or aspect of our composition is best placed along the grid lines, either vertically or horizontally and at a junction point also know as points of power.

It’s important to remember that the most significant part of the image is placed at a point of power and by doing this the viewers eye naturally tends to look around the rest of the image as well.

When outdoors taking photos, don’t be surprised that not much really tends to perfectly and symmetrically line up on the grid lines, or at all the points of power on your overall composition. That’s ok . You really just need to make sure that your main subject or what you want viewers of the image to look at first has the point of power.

Portraits and the rule of thirds

What’s the best way to apply the rule of thirds when taking a portrait?

It really doesn’t matter whether the subject is a human or an animal. It’s a natural instinct to look at the eyes first, then the face, and then the body. 

This is where our rule of thirds applies. Place one of the eyes on one of the top points of power or junction points. If your portrait is a profile, the top grid line should follow the natural line of sight of the subject.  The viewer will naturally follow where the subject is looking, as we only naturally want to know what the subject is looking at.


By applying the rule of thirds here, it will entice the viewer of the image to look into the subjects eyes.

Landscapes and the rule of thirds

Whether your composing a seascape or a landscape, the rule of thirds comes in very handy here and will improve your composition greatly.

The horizon is the first thing you need to pay attention to when shooting seascapes and landscapes, the rule of thirds will help you in two main ways here.

Firstly place the horizon line either on the bottom grid line or the top grid line. This is relative to what you would like more of in your foreground or background.

Then use the grid line to get the horizon straight.  Place a point of power at what you want the viewers to notice first in the image and use vertical gridlines to make sure any other elements in your image are straight and balanced.

Visual Balance and the rule of thirds

Another very important aspect to consider is visual balance of an image, in particular the horizontal and vertical balance. Placing things diagonally on points of power or junction points can do wonders for balancing the composition of your image and draw the eye naturally around the entire image.

The rule of thirds is not set in stone

As photographers we like to break the rules and this is widely accepted as being ok as long as the image composition is balanced or has other unique properties.

The rule of thirds is really just a guide to help you achieve much better composition of your images. It works very well in most cases and is a really great starting point. Feel free to experiment and use what works best in your situation.

How to describe a good photo

 “ A good photo consists of something unusual or interesting, photographed from an angle or in a way that we don’t usually see it."