Photography Basics – Composition


Rule of Thirds

One of the most important skills in photography is composition, and the most well-known and basic guide to compose photograph and painting is the Rule of Thirds.

In fact, the theory of rule of thirds has existed in ancient times. It was invented by the ancient Greeks, the geometric formula’s main purpose is to show harmony. Apply it to photography and the photo taken will more likely to look natural and more pleasing. Da Vinci paintings “Monroe Lisa’s smile,” the main character happens to place at the golden section of rule of thirds!

So what is Rule of Thirds?

Well, the “rule” basically suggests that instead of placing our main subject in the center of the photo frame, it will be more pleasing to place it at any of the intersection of the lines showed in the diagram below:


Below are some examples to illustration the principle and usage of this guide:


In the photograph above, the horizon sits at the horizontal line dividing the upper third of the photo from the lower two-thirds. The house on stilt is placed near the upper right intersection point.

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Here are another two photographs that make use of this useful fundamental composition guide. Again, the horizon is not placed at the center but close to one third of the frame and the main subject is placed near the intersection points.

Beyond rule of thirds

The newer trend in photography is to place the main subjects or focus point outside of the rule of third intersection and closer to the edge of the frame. As shown in the two photos below, the main subject, the boat and the lone tree are placed towards the edge that creates a more artistic feeling.


Break the rules?

Rule of thirds is applicable in most situation. However, for symmetrical scenes or subjects, it is okay and sometime better to place the main subjects in the middle, like the photo below.


Negative Space, Breathing Space and Direction

Another good practice for good composition is to leave some negative space or breathing space in the photo. As shown in the example below, there are plenty of “empty” space on the left side of the frame. By leaving the breathing space in front of the boat also provide a sense of direction.



Beginners should make good use of the Rule of Thirds to take photos. Although not every photo should also use this technique, the rule of thirds is indeed the basic knowledge photographer must master and exercise!

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