Remember a couple of weeks ago we started a little series called ‘Taking Better Photographs’? We talked about the basics of composing a shot; move for a different angle, look at the whole picture, fill the frame. Well this week we’re still talking composition, we’re still on the arty bit of photography before going on to the technical stuff in a few weeks. We’re all breaking in to this business really gently.
So for this week we’re going to be talking about a little trick, and a well known technique among anyone who has ever been on any sort of photography course, called the Rule of Thirds. It works on the principle of you lining up your pictures to a sort of grid which makes your photographs more visually appealing. I’m not personally a fan of the word “rule” because I think there are so many pictures out there which completely ignore this rule and are still appealing and dynamic, but it is a fun technique to play around with; both when you’re taking your photo and when editing it.
The basics are that you envisage your picture as being on a grid. The grid breaks up your picture into three sections both horizontally and vertically. You can then use this grid in a few different ways. I’ve used some examples below of photographs I have taken using the Rule of Thirds and pin pointed how it can help you to take effective and attractive shots.
You can place items of interest at the intersections of the lines. These spots are apparently where your eyes are drawn first when you look at a photograph, so it makes sense to consider that as you take or edit your photos.
The other thing you can do is line up any horizontal or vertical lines in your picture with the lines on the grid. This works particularly effectively with landscape photographs of scenery or if you are photographing people in front of some sort of landmark or view.
You can of course play around with this grid and use it to get some arty and interesting shots of your own. For example you might place the focus of your photo in just one third of the image. Like I said at the beginning; learn the rule, play with it and see what happens. Then feel free to break it.
One of the easiest ways to start getting your brain ‘switched on’ to this way of taking photographs is to edit some old ones. You can make an old photo obey the Rule of Thirds simply by identifying the focus and then cropping the photograph. Once you get use to seeing potential pictures in this way, they you can almost see the grid as you look through your viewfinder and will line things up accordingly.