A First Waltz: Applying the Rule of Thirds

The following is an account of a beginner trying to make his photo dance. He starts by chopping it into groups of three..

Tell me about this Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is best described as a “rule of thumb.” It is not something to be strictly and devoutly followed at all times. It’s more of a convention.

The main point of interest on the person, cat, building, sky or whatever object it is we want to draw most attention to -the subject- it is most often placed near the center of a photograph. For example:

It’s a pretty little birdie, that’s for sure.  This is a fine orientation to make nice photos with, and people do. But it’s the most common orientation of photographer-subject that people just starting photography tend to focus on. It’s healthy to practice moving the most eye catching element to different locations on a photograph. Doing so teaches one to utilize the other areas of the photo.

In practical terms, this can be translated into: “If your intended subject is at the centre of your photo, and you don’t know what you’re doing or why, it’s probably wise to try moving that subject around.”

What has that  Rule of Thirds fellow ever done for us, anyhow?!

Well, for beginners like me, it’s an effective method of practice.

It offers a box to explore. One that can be broken out of in a meaningful way when the box is first understood. It is a restriction, and restriction breeds creativity.

RoT #1


Above, I had the subject lean against a wall, taking up close to a third of the photo from the left. Her head  – a natural point of interest in photography, especially the eyes – is close to the intersection of background and the left side.  That is where I intended a viewer’s eyes to be first drawn to. I intended to draw attention first to her, then to the the tall cathedrals in the background along with the sky, and finally to the winding alleys of Cork City and the countryside beyond. In this photo the centre contained only a secondary point of interest, I was intentionally trying to pull attention away from there.

She is slightly more out of focus than I desired. A little more detail would have made her presence more dominating. I need to work on my depth of field control to make sure I’m capturing those ideas better.  I do like the sense of pull in this photo though. I  can imagine the subject turning to walk to the city below. Or she could pull away from it by walking towards the camera. Either way, I feel forces at play here. Moving my point of interest away from the centre allowed me to see new possibilities, new ways to use the whole of the picture’s area to achieve different functions.

If you’d like to know more about the Rule Of Thirds, I personally found this explanation simple, succinct, and practical – see by clicking here

Coming Soon

I will be posting regular pics with more of my attempts to apply the rule of thirds. With only minimal explanation, These will be little more than a standalone image. I’ll do so until I feel comfortable moving onto a new regular pic-challenge.

I’m meeting up with a professional photographer friend tomorrow. That means an opportunity to use a DSLR instead of the point-and-shoot Kodak I’ve used up to this point. I’m excited to learn from him and the experience of using a massively more powerful device. I’ll post some of those soon too. More than likely with a few comments thrown in.

Till then, happy snapping, you photo saps!


One thought on “A First Waltz: Applying the Rule of Thirds

  1. Pingback: Practicing the Rule of Thirds: The Spider | Human Wild Type

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