Improve Your Photos with Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

I’m sure there are many newcomers to photography who are just not satisfied with their photos. Are you one of them? Perhaps you’ve not discovered the beauty of the Rule of Thirds.

In this article, I will expound on the Rule of Thirds and also provide ideas on how to use it to improve your composition.

What Is Rule of Thirds and How It Works?

Before I begin, have a look at the image below.
rule of thirds

Now, the Rule of Thirds composition is accomplished by visualizing the image into 9 equal parts, divided by 2 equally spaced horizontal lines and 2 equally spaced vertical lines.

The points where the lines intersect will then be used to align the photograph, making the photograph look more interesting.

Have problem visualizing? Some cameras actually have an option to display the Rule of Thirds grid on the LCD / viewfinder. Yup! There is, such as the Fujifilm Finepix S7000 (see the LCD on the article banner?).

It’s not a huge matter of concern if your camera doesn’t have such features. i Just learn to estimate the boxes in your viewfinder and you’ll get it eventually.

How Does Rule of Thirds Help?

Let’s have a look at what photos look like before applying the Rule of Thirds and after applying the Rule of Thirds.

While these are not the best of my pictures, I’m sure they’re able to get the point through. 🙂

rule of thirds
Observe how the flower is now emphasized, with a spacious green background to add to the comfortable feel of nature.

rule of thirds
The player is now emphasized, it wouldn’t make sense to emphasize him on the left side since that will leave a bunch of space behind the subject that adds no value to the composition. Furthermore the player was running towards the left side of the picture, so ideally the composition should have him on the right while showing the space he’s running to.

rule of thirds
The macaw was at the center of the photo, however by positioning it to the cross-points, you’ll see that it immediately gets better emphasis. On the other side (the cross-points on the left), the macaw’s interests (the leaves) are emphasized as well!

See it better? See how the cross-points on the left emphasized the secondary subject while the cross-points on the right emphasized the primary subject?

rule of thirds

Now this is an interesting picture. It already looks great on its own, with the red bridge being near one of the cross-points.

However the picture turned out way better with a little more effort in composition. You now have the subject at the cross-point, emphasizing the bridge and it’s reflection on the calm waters but at the same time the lines actually separate the background (hills and skies), the nearer background (trees / greens) and the foreground (the lake and the beautiful reflection).

Side Note : Did you know that the lake photo above won a contest? Yup, 1st place. 😀 No it’s not in my gallery yet, and it wasn’t taken with a Digital SLR either!

A Few Things In Mind.

Take note that the subject you wish to emphasize does not exactly have to be on the cross-point of the lines to make use of Rule of Thirds. The idea is to have the point of interest being close to the cross-points.

So, now that you know the Rule of Thirds, does this mean you should use it all the time? Well no, not exactly so. The Rule of Thirds is meant to help you in your photographic composition BUT not the only way to compose. 🙂

Take a look at my flickr gallery, you’ll see that many shots look great even without applying Rule of Thirds. On the other hand some of the product shots in my hardware reviews are done with Rule of Thirds. 🙂

Go Forth and Get Good Photos

So there ya have it, the Rule of Thirds. Now that you know it, use it!

In fact, try using the Rule of Thirds on your old photos and see if it brings the magic out of it. 🙂 The beauty of digital photography is that you are able to crop what you’ve captured to improve composition.

Good luck!

Do you know anyone who could benefit from this knowledge? Just send them this page by using the “Send this article to a friend” below.

UPDATE : 2014

I wrote the article back in 2007 when I just started photography. Since then I’ve progressed to be an established commercial photographer and even have clients from outside of Malaysia. 😀

http://www.brianchong.com.my/ – this is where you get to view my accomplishments and accolades, and also sample of my interior photography works.

– Food photography at Shutterstock and Dreamstime

Do observe how I use Rule of Thirds for my composition.

Improve Your Photos with Rule of Thirds 1

Thank you.

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30 Comments

  1. wow.. I like the Rule of Thirds thingy man.. will try it out..

  2. very well indeed as this makes a picture slight more balanced as before.

    however, as you said, it only works for some therefore, i always take two pictures of the same thing (with and without the Rule of Thirds) and i’ll decide which one makes the cut at home. in digital age, you can afford to spam alot of pics 😛

  3. really good explanation of Rule of Thirds, now I have a better understanding of it 🙂

  4. Author

    So how’s it going guys? Any improvements? 🙂

  5. nice photography guide u got there 😀
    u should teach other principles also
    such as depth of field 😀

  6. Author

    Oh, they’re definitely coming. I have a whole bunch of guides just waiting to be completed and released. 🙂

  7. nice guide. i know that rules of third is the most fundamental theory of good photography, but i never apply to it XD, i just aim and shoot….i shud remember of this rule all the time when shooting picture.

  8. Author

    Ahh you went to the AMBP gathering with your camera, manage to capture anything nice? 🙂

  9. may i know what gallery are u using integrating with your site?

  10. Author

    Oh, it was a picture gallery script I greated around 5 years ago.

    I just further enhance the code so that it works with WordPress. 🙂 The entire script is run from inside a WordPress PAGE.

  11. Your entry prompted me to research more on this technique and I also talked to my friend who’s a part time wedding photographer. He agreed this is a very useful technique.. taking photos with the subject in the center = boring 😛

    I’m gonna try this this weekend in either bird park or Putrajaya

  12. Author

    Great! Have you used it in your food reviews? 🙂

  13. Honestly I don’t this technique can apply to foods’ photos.. But I went to the bird park yesterday and tried to use it.. the photos turned up pretty well.. at least no more boring subjects in the center 😛

  14. Author

    Actually it can, look at food photography. Let’s say you’re taking the picture of some noodle. You can shoot portrait (as opposed to landscape) composition with the subject crossing the 2 points at the lower section while the empty areas on top creating a bokeh effect.

  15. Very good explanation and thank a lot for the effort. Check my photo accidentally taking with rule of 3rd look very interesting.

  16. This has been really helpful to me as well. as far as I know, most ppl will normally focus the object right in the middle of the screen, like me 😛

  17. yup, people tends to focus the object at the middle of the focus point because most cameras have focus frame [ ] at the center

  18. But sometimes u have to break the rules to get better photo..

  19. There aren’t any rules for one to follow either. So, you won’t break any rules by not focusing on the “main object” 🙂

  20. it’s kinda hard to follow the rule if no practice often…

  21. yeah la most of the time oso focusing on the object is more important, problem is how to know when to use this rule too. since we’re so driven into focusing on the object, i think it’ll take some time before we realise to use this rule.

  22. O.O” didnt reli know thisss……

    reallly needs to try out at home….!!
    and at the same time were wondering how if auto focus ar???
    i hv to press only can fun there wor….

    i use to autosnap. then i cant apply this lor.
    any tips for autosnap arrr???? very very very interested to know…!!!
    and also the best angle to snap body in shape…..yess!! yesss!!!!

    email me the tips coz i cant wait for u!!!!!

  23. Great rule.. i never think out this kind of matter to composite the picture.. normally i just try on the angle which i think it will be nice.. But the 1st flower picture, the After photo will make the left look wasted and free space.. .. maybe it not suitable for this rule?


  24. Fundamental of photography which is easily missed. Nod nod.

  25. I think that the rule of thirds is a good way to take pictures and actually see what you are trying to see/take a picture of



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