Photography Tips – Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds, composition, framing – one of the first skills you should learn before taking photos. It can help you tell the story, or emphasise a feeling.

Usually, when gridlines are enabled on a camera or phone it looks like this:

Standard gridlines

But for the purpose of this article, I will move them slightly in order to show you how I frame my photos with the rule of thirds in mind.

Here are 4 examples.

Photo 1

Leopard, Namibia

In this photo, the subject is the leopard sitting next to a termite nest. The leopard is the main focus, secondly is the termite nest. Consider the termite nest as a side story.

As you can see I created a little bit of breathing room on the right of the leopard, which is also the direction it’s looking. Why did I do this?

Well, consider the photo below if I didn’t.

It might still be an okay shot, but it’s just not the same. At least not for me anyway. It feels a little bit too cramped. I want there to be a feeling of freedom. That the leopard is in its territory where it is free to roam, and not just a cat trapped in a cage.

Here are two textbook uses of the rule of thirds.

Photo 2

Sunset, Namibia

The bottom line of the gridline is on the horizon and my subject is smack in the middle of the photo.

Photo 3

Flower

Here the subject, which is a flower, is also right in the middle. I made use of a vignette* to darken the image around the corners in order to highlight the flower even more.

*Vignette - Usually a dark oval or circular shadow that creeps from the borders to the centre of the photo.

Photo 4

Table Mountain, South Africa

When I took this photo I made sure the mountain was in the bottom half of the frame with the sky filling the top half, which once again also creates breathing room for the photo. I want you to get a feeling of the fresh open air.

Maybe you’ve noticed the clouds are also serving as leading lines that guide your eyes towards the mountain.

These “rules” are merely guidelines and not the “Code of the Photography Brethern”. This is what works for me as a photographer. Play around with them. See what works for you. Develop your own eye for detail and see what you can come up with.

If you found this helpful, here are 5 photography tips for beginners.

Learn about developing your eye for detail.

Thinking about which camera you should buy to begin photography?

Confused by some photography terminology?Β Here’sΒ a list of photography jargon.

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