Composition. Introduction to rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds is the most basic rule in art, including photography. The majority of books about photography composition teaches this rule from the beginning. During my classes on photography I also suggest to start from it, but suggest to learn thirds from as many points of view, as possible. Utilizing thirds doesn’t guaranty masterpieces right away (as the rule is a very basic one if being used as is), but it does make the composition stronger in many cases.

Photo Composition: Rule of Thirds

This rule utilizes the importance of virtual lines, which subdivide an image onto horizontal and vertical thirds. By aligning an extended object in the frame of the future photograph with one of these lines (instead of putting it to the middle, or dragging to the edge) we are adding visual importance to the object. To emphasize smaller objects the rule suggests to put them into one of four points of the third’s intersection.

Sometimes we align with the thirds not the objects itself, but the edge line between them (e.g. the horizon line). In this case it is easier to think that we used the edge line, as an object. Generally speaking, every noticeable line is important in the composition of an image.

Surprisingly there are not that many exceptions from the Rule of Thirds, although to comprehend this point we need to consider a great deal of elements of visual design, which we will cover step by step.


 At this point I’m suggesting you some Dos and Don’ts on using the Rule of Thirds, but truly we’ll deepen our understanding of the thirds in the further articles.


  • when you want to create a balanced composition (versus more instability, dynamics, motion, drama)
  • with two objects, similar in size or visual weight, which we will discuss in further articles
  • with two compact groups of objects, similar in size or visual weight. In this case centers of the groups’ weight will be aligned with thirds


  • when balance is not what you want to show through your image
  • in a calm symmetrical images, where central composition works better
  • try to avoid aligning insignificant objects (e.g. electrical pole) with the thirds, in order to prevent them from attracting more viewer’s attention.

  • Click on the examples below, and find where the Rule of Thirds has been used
  • You can always come back to make a deeper analysis and add more elements to understanding why and how certain rules have been used here, and what is the result (an accent) of using those rules
  • Chose two objects and take 10 different shots with them, using Rule of Thirds, and being aware of the background, and other visible objects and lines in the frame


All articles on composition can be seen by clicking on the tag “Composition” in any article’s header.

As usually, I’ll be glad to answer your questions, or provide more clarification on the topic of this article:

No comments, be the first one to comment !

Leave a Reply

© Isigma Photo. All rights reserved


Create an Account Back to login/register