PHOTO CHALLENGE – Rule of Thirds

“The Rule of Thirds is a photography concept that puts the subject of the photograph off-center, which usually results in blank space in the rest of the image.”

No, it isn’t. This isn’t what the rule of thirds means. That is wrong information. Primitive. Over-simplified. Take a look at this excerpt from the Digital Photograph School website:

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. As follows.

rule of thirds gridAs you’re taking an image you would have done this in your mind through your viewfinder or in the LCD display that you use to frame your shot.

With this grid in mind, the ‘rule of thirds’ identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image.

Not only this – but it also gives you four ‘lines’ that are also useful positions for elements in your photo.

Rule of Thirds in Photography

The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally. Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the shot – using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it … (and) here (is an) example:

rule of thirds example

It does not mean pushing your primary image off to one side to leave the rest blank. Most photographers have an instinctive feel for balance in a photograph and other than reminding them they shouldn’t always put the subject dead in the middle of the photo, will discover this for themselves. Correctly. With balance and art.

Check out the Digital Photography School website’s article on “The Rule of Thirds” for the whole story. It’s an excellent article.

indian corn - kitchen BW


Composition cannot — should not — be reduced to a rule. Knowing the rule of thirds doesn’t mean you must adhere to it. I had never heard of the “rule of thirds” until I had been taking pictures for most of my life. Oddly, most of my landscapes fit the parameters. If you have a good eye, you will take pictures people like to look at. I don’t know anyone who thinks, even for a moment, about any rules while they are shooting. They just “see it” and press the shutter.


Don’t over-think your process. Don’t try to force your photographs into a specific format. Sometimes, right down the middle is exactly where your primary image belongs. Just — not all the time.

In art, there are never any hard and fast rules. Just suggestions. Loose guidelines. You’ll find your own rules as you work.

Categories: Photography

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39 replies

  1. Thank you for visiting my site which in turn brought me to your site. As a newbie with the camera it was nice to learn about the rule of thirds. I just snapped the photos for the challenge and ended up with something I thought fit. After reading your post, I am going to view some of my photos to see if I have actually been doing this without realizing. Love your site!!


    • I’m glad I helped. I suspect you will discover that you are doing it more often than not. But there are other composition “rules” and guidlines, including always having something in the foreground to give perspective the the picture. Having a diagonal “object” — a fence, a road — anything — to give motion to a picture. I learned to take pictures by looking at pictures I admired and trying to figure out what the photographer DID, how he or she composed it. In the end, that’s how we learn. We look. We copy. When it comes out right, we try to figure out what we did that made it work and if it doesn’t, what we might have done. It takes time and a lot of deleted pictures. And you never get so good or so sophisticated that you won’t have 80% duds out of a bunch of shots. Actually, if 20% of your photos are good enough to want to show them off, you’re way ahead of the curve. Take a LOT of pictures. It’s the best learning tool you have 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Right on Marilyn. Thank you for speaking up to this WPC error.
    Love your grid and clear definitions.
    Excellent post!


    • Thank you. I pulled the information from websites that teach photography. It’s so easy to do that. It’s hard for me to understand why WP doesn’t bother to present correct information. This stuff isn’t obscure or hard-to-find. It’s readily available all over the Internet.


  3. Excellent post, Marilyn, with terrific images. I agree, thirds is a good rule of thumb but…rules should be broken. It depends on your subject and your creativity. Happy shooting!


  4. Thank you for the break down and making it clear. I had no idea what the hell they were talking about!!


  5. I love you for this, thank you very much, such a brilliant explanation.


  6. Really enjoyed reading your blog post, thank you – you have raised some thought provoking ideas. And included some great photos too!


  7. I have two rules of thirds. First, three strikes and you’re out. Second, third time’s a charm.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for including the article. I do have a background in art & design (& engineering), although eons ago. As I recall, you are correct that the original over simplified things. She was correct as far as she went, but was incorrect in giving the impression her snippet was the end-all-be-all. Here’s another nice link, which takes things one step further by introducing the Golden Ratio — something I got drummed into my head a long, long time ago — and comparing it to the Rule of Thirds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CiS3SU4lk0

    They are and aren’t rules, meaning they are rules of composition but no one is going to kill you if you veer off, and they aren’t the only way to create visual interest. As you say, sometimes straight down the middle is awesome.


    • This bothered me because there are so many newbies who take this stuff as gospel. Hopefully, they’ll also use their own eyes and judgement. If you have a good eye and are willing to learn the technical basics, the rest will follow. Eventually. I had friends who were photographers. They helped me with technique, but I learned composition by looking at good pictures. And trying to figure out WHY they were good. Composition is hard to explain, but most people know it when they see it, even if they can’t pin down exactly what they see. Thanks for the link!!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I agree with the unease at the misinformation. Since it is coming under the umbrella of WordPress, there is the assumption (I think) that their info is correct.

        I’m participating in their Writing 201: Poetry, and had a small knipition fit when the WP guy (of Daily Prompt fame) gave the pronunciation of simile as SEE-ME-LEE. He responded to my correction with this really lame explanation of not wanting to make it overly complicated. How is making it WRONG uncomplicating things? The mind boggles.


        • Despite their protestations, I think they talk about things without bothering to do any research … not so much as a simple Google search. They present themselves as experts, but they are not. Their advice to writers is awful too — out of context, contradictory, and just plain bad. And discouraging to beginners.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks the further information, Marilyn. I thought that’s what the “rule” was, too, but either way, there have been lots of enjoyable photos this week, including yours. Keep warm this weekend.



  10. Agreed. I honestly think that when you know how to use a camera rules of anything no longer apply. Sometimes off center is just right, sometimes bang on center is just right. I have never taken a photograph in my life and tried to apply any ‘rules’ of anything and just instinctively take photographs that I like. If anyone else likes them it is a huge bonus. I think people can get lost in the ‘rules’ but it is good to learn all of that stuff and then go and do things exactly how you want to knowing that you learnt the rules to just go and break them anyways. 🙂


  11. I like it when it’s off center. Maybe I am a little off myself 🙂


  12. I generally just point my camera at pretty stuff and click 🙂


    • Basically, that’s what I do, too. That’s essentially what we all call photography. Except some people also focus and frame the shot and try to avoid ugly shit in the background. Others, just shoot. Trash cans in the background and all. My father was a trash can includer. Sometimes, he stood us in front of them. I’m not sure if maybe it was intended as some kind of social statement.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Very nice post and gorgeous photos!



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