Monday, January 23, 2012

The Rule of Thirds - Raising the Bar of Excellence

The three greatest photo tips of all time as far as photography is concerned include: leading lines, the rule of thirds, and framing. This article will only address one of these, but once you master all three of these, your photography will look better than 90% of all photos out there.

Centuries ago, Greek artists discovered that the eye tends to focus on certain points in any given image. If you divide your picture into thirds both horizontally and vertically, the points at which those lines intersect are the points where most people focus comfortably. You don't have to draw an arrow, in most cases this is where they will look without any coaching from you or anyone else. This is commonly referred to as the "Rule of Thirds".

By placing your subject (or point of interest) at one of these natural focus points, you have greatly increased the odds that the viewer will indeed be captivated by your work. As you do this more and more; people will notice that for some reason your work seems more interesting than their "Bull's-eye" type snap shot. They won't understand it, but they will be drawn to your work just like a magnet.

The Greeks and Egyptians were great mathematicians. I on the other hand; am not great at math, but I do understand the concept of 1/3rd in from the left or right and 1/3rd up or down. Those who know the formula will argue that it's not exactly 1/3rd, but that's OK. One of the things the rule of thirds does for your image is to give it movement. But wait a minute; you're asking what if my subject isn't moving? That's fine, but it gives your mind somewhere to go with the image. When your subject is dead center, your mind takes one glance and says, "Ok, next." Remember: "It's kind of hard to experience a photograph, if there's nothing left to the imagination."

        Even when doing extreme close-ups it is possible to use the rule of thirds. Think of a beautiful flower, what's the first thing you look at? Do you immediately look at the pedals or the center.  I doubt that most people first look at the pedals. Usually you look towards the center of the flower.  In the First photo, the flower is placed almost in the center of the frame, and in the second photo, the flower is placed in the top right part of the photo.  Where the focus is placed in the picture will determine just how much attention it will get.

Notice how the flower is in the center of the photo,
kinda boring

Notice how this flower is in the top right portion
of the photo, making it much more interesting

This same concept works for other subjects besides flowers, It can work with people, pets, landscapes, sunsets, just about anything you want to photograph. Let’s say you have a beautiful stream coming down a mountain side. If you shoot horizontally with the stream dead center, you cut the photo in half. Now in this example, we also have to consider leading lines. If you shoot the stream diagonally and it ends somewhere in the lower left third of the picture, you have still taken advantage of the rule of thirds. This is one of those “professional photo tips” that allows your viewer to experience your photo and not just glance at it.

Notice in this photo, the sun is in the lower right third
portion, and the street light is along the same plane as
the clouds, creating a more dramatic scene

Notice the lines in this photo, leading from
the bottom left third to the back

         When you can guide someone into an image and allow them to have an emotional response, your work is much more likely to be remembered. When you use the rule of thirds on a regular basis, you have raised the bar of excellence in such a way that people can not help but to be refreshed and invigorated by your work. If they feel that good just by experiencing your photo once, think how much better they will feel when they start buying your work and enjoying it everyday.

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