In Focus: What is “Rule of Thirds”, How to Use and Break It?

The rule of thirds is one of the most common rule in photography. it is also almost the first thing that hopeful digital photographers acquire in photography class. You’ve probably heard a lot about this phrase and are looking for an explanation on the internet. The same thing happened to me when I started my photography a few years ago. And I want to make this explanation as easy as possible.


The rule of thirds in photography is considered a “golden rule” or standard that applies to the process of designing or composing your photograph. This rule suggests that an image should be divided into two parts that are equal by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, both are equally spaced. There are three horizontal and three vertical parts that make up the thirds of the frame. You can have an imaginary indication of where you can place your subject. Place the important composition elements along these lines or their intersections.

Advocates of technology had strongly suggest that having your subject lying in these vertices creates more weight, vitality, and interest in the composition than simply placing the subject in the center.



According to some studies, people’s eyes tend to go more naturally to one of the points of intersection than to the center of the photo. With the rule, I could also play with negative space.

In order to apply the rule of thirds when shooting with a person, the eyes must be at the intersections.

This draws attention to the subject’s eye, which should really be the focus when photographing a person. Besides, the eye is the window of the soul. The image should not look like a police image (mug shot). Place the person on either side of the image.

When photographing landscapes, you need to know which element to highlight or give focus to.

This element must attract attention in the frame, but does not diminish the effect of the other elements that complement each other. You may need to move to find the perfect angle. When recording a moving subject, always record a frame so that there is a large space in front of the subject. It should underline the direction in which the subject will go.

The subject is in 2 of the intersections on the left, which give a negative space.

There are so many rules in photography and there is a saying that says “rules are made to be broken”.

The rule of thirds is no exception. It does not apply in all situations, and sometimes it can lead to a much more eye-catching and impressive photo. Experiment and try different compositions, even if they violate any “rule” you have learned. The sequel is a safe option, the break is brave, but it could give you a better picture. Personally, I follow this rule because I get the framing that I want.

Provide a story or message I would like to convey. I also take an additional photo that does not usually follow the rule to explore. If you take a shot and does not followed the rule of thirds and you think the image could be better if you follow the rule, you can always crop your image to get the image you want. Unless, of course, shooting does not allow you that. (What I mean here is that shooting does not have enough room to work with the cropping).

My advice is that before you break the rule, you must learn to follow it correctly so that it is broken properly.

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