How to Improve The Composition of Your Photos Using The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds has been around since early artists took up their paint brushes, carrying their easels into fields, to river banks or palaces if they were painting Royalty.

Not everybody agrees with the Rule of Thirds, but many do follow it either to the letter or at least to some extent.

Rule of Thirds - Bad Composition

Example of bad composition because Rule of Thirds have not been applied

Opposite is a photograph I took of Ashness Landing in the Lake District. From a photographers point of view, I don’t like it. Why? The horizon is smack in the middle of the photo, giving a sense that it is cutting the image in half. Also the horizon itself is not straight.

This brings us back to the question, What Is The Rule of Thirds?



View of Rule of Thirds Grid

Above example with Rule of Thirds Grid Overlaid.

Take a look at my second example – same photograph, this time with a grid of nine squares overlaid. This grid is the Rule of Thirds.

Rather than binning this shot, using software like Photoshop, Lightroom, Apature or whatever package you have, you can recompose the photo simply by cropping it.

Rule of Thirds - Final Composition

Final image after the photo has been recomposed using the Rule of Thirds



Here is my final edit after recomposing the shot. Ok, I have lost a bit of the landscape, but my main subject here was the wooden pier.







Most camera these days will allow you to display the Rule of Thirds grid on you camera to help with your composition.

If you are just starting out in photography, or want to enhance your composition, I really do recommend you use this setting.

Before long you will find you won’t need the grid, as you will automatically apply the Rule of Thirds.

Some more examples using the Rule of Thirds

Surfer - composed using the Rule of Thirds

Stalking the Waves: Another example of good composition using the Rule of Thirds

The surfer here has been placed on the left hand side of the Rule of Thirds. Notice the open space to his right – he is walking to the right, and by placing him over on the left, he “has somewhere to go” in the photograph.

Imagine he was placed on the right side – it would be like he’s walking into a brick wall.





Stormtroopers like to have fun too!

Rule of Thirds is not just for landscape, it can be used on almost anything.

Its not just landscapes and people that the Rule of Thirds works with – its almost anything. Take this fun shot I took a while ago. Big Stormtrooper is over on the Left Thirds, but look at the little guy infront of him. He’s looking to the right – again nice open space for him to look at, but it also raised the question, “What IS he looking at?”









Puffin with Sand Eels - Rule of Thirds Example

Puffin with Sand Eels – Rule of Thirds Example

This final example is of a puffin I photographed at the Farne Islands. I did have to do a slight crop on the photo, but the little fella’s eyes have been place on the top square of Rule of Thirds. Notice how there is little room to the right? This is because the puffin is looking at you 🙂

I hope you found this article helpful enough? If so drop me a note, if not! Drop me a note so I can maybe help a little further.

Before I finish this post about The Rule of Thirds, there is just one thing left to be said…..

Rules are there to be broken…. 😉

One thought on “How to Improve The Composition of Your Photos Using The Rule of Thirds

  1. Pingback: How to Improve The Composition of Your Landscape Photos Using Foreground Interest « Mark White Photography

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