For some reason, an off-center picture is more pleasing to us. It looks more natural. We know from the Brain Game tv show that if we stare at something right in the middle of the screen, our peripheral vision diminishes to the point where it’s not working much at all. Maybe that is what’s happening… we like things off-centered so that we can see more of what’s going on around us.

rule of thirds grid

We also know that the brain fills in negative space, so maybe that’s all part of how we tell stories with pictures. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

So let’s divide your view finder into a gird with nine boxes (see grid for landscape photos to the right). The rule of thirds says that you should place the subject of your picture on one of the points where the lines intersect.

Non-photographically speaking, reality isn’t centered. The real world is rarely framed front and center, so perhaps eccentric looks more natural because it is more natural.

Let me see what I can find that fits the challenge. Among my more than 100,000 images, there are bound to be a few, right?




Which Way Green River Bridge

pink chrysanthemum


fuchsia macro june 2015


Just remember: There are a million exceptions for every rule. Sometimes, the picture is in the middle and that’s precisely where it belongs.

45 thoughts on “CCY: RULE OF THIRDS – PART I

  1. Pingback: Cee’s Weekly Wrap Up – December 12, 2015 and Chanukah Festive Colors | Cee's Photography

  2. Lots to learn in this lil’ lesson on thirds. At least for me 🙂 I’ll be much more intuitive now in my photography. Those were some beautiful shots btw.


    • You’ve given me a real leg up on a marvelous week. I’m flying high thanks to you. Thank you again!! You are improving my work. There’s no such thing as “knowing everything.” We are always learning and you are helping. Thank you again!!


  3. Pingback: CCY: Week #9 Gold Star Award and Features Rule of Thirds Introduction | Cee's Photography

    • Thanks. That was what I was aiming for, just to illustrate that there are a lot of ways pictures align to that grid and it isn’t always as obvious as you think. I believe we do this instinctively anyway and don’t really have to force it. If you have an eye, you have an eye.


  4. So explain to me why when I lose something and can’t find it, it’s usually right in front of me where I should have been starring in the first place.., according to your opening statement? Never mind what cameras do I’ve got a problem here…


  5. Great photos. That is one rule that my Social Snappers group struggle with – why off centre – they all plonk something right in the centre of the photo. I have spent hours literally showing photos explaining it but still they insist that everything has to be dead centre. Must be a Kiwi thing


  6. Just take what you like (or whatever the person paying you likes, if you are fortunate enough to have that option). I love these 🙂


    • Thank you Cee!! I have occasionally struggled to find a way to move a subject off center — only to realize in this pictures, that’s where it belongs. You did a GREAT job explaining a concept that isn’t so easy to describe. Better than I’ve been able to do and explaining things is my specialty. So kudos to you! Now, if only we can convince people that it’s not a law and no one will arrest you for centering a picture 🙂


  7. I would like to add that our eyes tend to focus on the middle of a scene. So centering the subject is what our brain expects and therefore predictable/boring. When you place your subject off center, our eyes want to look at the subject and draw back to the center. But since the subject isn’t in the center, our eyes move back to the image. This creates a certain dynamic that “forces” us to keep on looking.

    Well explained and some good photos! Keep up the good work!



    • I like have at least one diagonal line “pointing” from an edge to the middle — usually right bottom toward the middle. I learned to shoot by copying photographs of great photographers. I noticed (1) almost every landscape has a strong diagonal, and (2) almost every landscape has something solid in the foreground to give perspective to the shot. You can easily see it in the best cinematography, too. People pictures have other parameters, though principles of good composition always apply.

      That’s how come pictures of beaches are usually dull. A flat line across the horizon, no foreground, no diagonal. I spend a lot of time crouching behind clumps of grass or bushes or most anything to get some perspective into a flat scene … and if there is a way to shoot with a strong diagonal leading into the frame, I’ll do my damnedest to find it 🙂

      Some scenes just don’t lend themselves to still photography and are much better as video. It is beautiful, but you just cannot capture the scene. You can catch parts of it, but not the whole thing.

      Composition is harder to explain than it is to see it. Cee did a great job explaining it, I think. And no matter how well you explain it, you can’t explain that ineffable “something” that turns a picture into something special. You know it when you see it, but it’s really hard to explain it with words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are absolutely right! Diagonal lines add a great sense of dynamics to the picture. So a clever move!

        And a foreground is very important! Your camera can’t show the world in 3D, so you need an object in the foreground to help our brain to create a sense of depth.

        Although I do not agree that the “rules” of composition is hard to explain, I do agree that showing the difference between a “good” and “bad” composition helps to explain.

        And I completely agree that a picture needs a story, a clear subject. Otherwise the picture is just like a beautiful stage, waiting for the players to arrive and start telling a story.

        Keep up the good work!

        Kind regards,


Leave a Reply to Marilyn Armstrong Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.