Photo Tip #6: Rule of Thirds Part 1
Back in my younger days, you know, a year or twenty ago, I would “take” pictures of all sorts of things, centering them exactly in the frame like I was told to by other snapshooters. Having no real “art” education (except for an intensely boring Art History class in college), I couldn’t really realize why my images were so… ordinary. Ordinary pictures are (or were) a waste of film, because you glance at them once, see what it is, then move on. Booooring….
Ok, I wasn’t really that bad, but my photos really left things to be desired. Then I was taught a bit of psychology by one of my mentors, who said “The eye expects a thing to be in the center, so when you move it OFF center, the mind wants to ask “Why?
I don’t know.
But it works.
When the center of interest, the thing you want most to highlight, is set off to the side, the brain of the viewer goes a little nuts looking for the reason. And so it lingers, searching, wandering, gathering the details – and if the image is well done, a story begins to emerge.
I believe that the “image” is all about the story. Grabbing the viewer’s interest is the opening chapter to the story. The “Rule of Thirds” is the device that most regularly can capture the attention.
Imagine the viewfinder of the camera, and draw an imaginary Tic-Tac-Toe board on it. There are four places where the lines intersect. These are called the “power points”. Your goal is to put the “center of interest” at or near one of those points.
The intersections or power points have an order of strength. Lower left is #1, Upper left is #2, Upper right is #3 and lower right is #4. Of course you can’t always place your center of interest at exactly that point, but try to get close.
Our little man here has the "center of interest" at the upper right, which is the eye nearest the camera. Cute little guy - I think he just won the "Cutest 7-Month Old" contest..
Horizons need to go on the thirds as well – upper or lower – but they need to be there. Never, ever run the shoreline or horizon through the middle of the frame, unless you have a whole composition of converging lines leading to that center – but that’s another topic altogether…
The next thing is for you to go out - or even in your home - play with your composition using the rule of thirds. Dogs make particularly fun subjects. In any case, the sun just came out.
Time to go out and play!
Until next time!
Monroe Payne is a portrait and commercial photographer in Ithaca, NY. His passion is improving the level of the craft of photography by teaching, mentoring and connecting professionals in this wonderful, personal service of Photography that we provide.