Are you a rule follower? Or do you like to break rules? In photography {and design}, there are a few rules that should be followed concerning composition. This week we are going to talk about the rule of thirds.

Following the rule of thirds is one of the easiest ways to improve your pictures.  The basic idea of the rule of thirds is to divide your picture in nine equal parts and put the interesting parts on the intersections. This creates four points of interest.

Simply put: Stop centering your pictures!

For some reason the rule of thirds comes naturally for me. If it doesn’t for you, you may find that your viewfinder has a grid option to help you with composition. By turning this feature on, you will have a visual reminder to go a little left of center {or right}.

Look at the two pictures below. Which one is more visually appealing to you?

While  I think they are both cute {how could I not, it’s my kid!}, I much prefer the right over the left. Here’s why. The centered picture looks more like a snapshot. By stepping back and following the rule of thirds, it becomes a  portrait.

Let’s take a look at the right picture on the grid.

Don’t worry about always following this rule when shooting. You can always follow the rule in post-processing.  Many editing programs {online and offline} display a grid when cropping. This will help you see the rule of thirds when determining how you want to crop your picture.

Now that you have it drilled in your head that you must follow the “rules,” I am going to let you in on a little secret. You don’t always have to follow them!  When can you break the rules? Pictures that show symmetry do not work well within the rules.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept, is to follow the rules. Take some pictures centered and then take it again applying the rules. Which do you like better? Once you get used to shooting with the rule of thirds, go ahead and think about ways to break the rules!

Did you miss one of our photography tutorials? Catch up quickly with our growing Photography Tutorial Library!

Want so see some amazing photos taken by participants in the 365 project? Check out these 40 photographs of shapes35 images of light47 self portraits and these amazing morning shots.

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