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The Rule of Thirds

Learn about the rule of thirds when taking pictures with your digital camera from photographer Dan Bracaglia in this photography lesson from Howcast.


One thing you'll hear a lot of photographers talk about and a term that gets thrown around a lot is something called the rule of thirds. Now, I just want to make a point and emphasis this, that it's not so much a set of rules as it is more a guideline of thirds. It's basically a concept, and pretend this is your viewfinder and this is the frame you're looking at, that breaks that frame down into nine sections. And a lot of cameras will even let you overlay your viewfinder with dotted blinking red lines very similar to this to help you with the rule of thirds. So it's going to look something like that.

Now the whole concept basically is to put your subject in these intersections of these lines to make for a more visually pleasing photograph. So for example, if you're taking a picture of say a portrait of somebody, let's say they're like this, kind of an ugly looking guy, doesn't have a mouth. This would be a good use of the rule of thirds. That eye is right in that intersection and it splits it really nicely. It breaks his face down into three different parts.

This works the same with anything. Whether it's a portrait, a landscape, you know, anything like that. Now I don't ever follow this and a lot of really famous well respected photographers break this every single day.

The way I personally like to shoot is I take my frame and I like to break it right down the middle. I like to split it, well let's say, like this. I call this the rule of six. What I like to do is I like to put a subject over here. Let's say it's you know let's say it's like a mountain, and then the subject over on this side. Let's say it's a guy. This isn't perfect, but exactly what I do, but it's just a different way of thinking. You break it down halves and halves.

The reason I draw this out for you is because there really is no single rule out there that's going to make you a great photographer. Everybody has their own way of shooting and their own style. It's just the rule of thirds is a really good way to start out learning basic composition principles and what's going to look good in the frame.

And one last point, and I think that this is a really important one and this relates again into the rule of thirds. The last thing you want to do, 95 to 96 percent of the time, is center your subject right in the middle of the frame. That breaks not only the rule of thirds, but Dan's rule of six as well. Don't do that.

And that's a little bit about the rule of thirds.

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