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Tips for Using the Rule of Thirds in Photography

Are you at the starting point of your photography career or just want some extra tips to improve? Here are some helpful tips for using the rule of thirds in your photos.

The rule of thirds is one of the important elements photographers use where they take both vertical lines and horizontal lines called the “rule of thirds grid” and use these as intersection points for important elements in photos. It is said that placing main subjects on these focal points is more pleasing to the eye when composing your image. While this is just a starting point for photographers, placing the subject or placing the horizon of an image along the rule of thirds grid is a helpful composition technique for photographers to know before they begin to get creative and start breaking the rule. All of the most followed photographers on Instagram started out knowing this rule. Here are some of the best tips for using the rule of thirds. These tips can help you compose your photos and transform them into art.

Avoid Symmetry

One of the main pointers for using the rule of thirds is to avoid symmetry. The rule of thirds grid trains the eye to place important elements and focal points on the side of the frame. Photography becomes more interesting when the lines are varied. If only vertical lines are used, things get boring fast. Composition technique and the rule of thirds include adding asymmetry to the photo and composing your image outside of the expected. 

Utilize Empty Space

Another important tip for using the rule of thirds is to leave empty space. Negative space can have a large impact on the focal point in the image. Whether you’re placing the subject in the center or on the side of the frame, empty space surrounding the main subject will be pleasing the eye and will provide and minimalist feel. Having too much going on when composing your photo will cause confusing for the viewer. Sometimes, less is more.

Emphasize the Focal Point of a Close Up

If your photo is a close up, a good tip for using the rule of thirds is to emphasize the focal point of the close up on the rule of thirds grid. Those horizontal and vertical lines will be helpful for you when trying to place the important elements of your photo. The intersection points are where the eyes will be drawn first. That's a simple macro photography tip for beginners as well. 

Line Up Parallel Objects

If your photo does happen to be more symmetrical and it includes a lot of horizontal and vertical lines, one of the best tips for using the rule of thirds is to line up parallel objects along the rule of thirds grids. The eyes naturally go along these lines, so placing the subject here as opposed to directly center will be a great composition technique.

Eyes in Portraits

Eyes are naturally an important element and focal point in photography. One of the most important pointers for using the rule of thirds in photography, especially when composing your image with animals or people in the photo, is to position the eyes on the side of the frame at the intersection points. While beginner photographers may assume that the center is where the eyes should be focused, it is more appealing and more professional to keep the important elements of the on the rule of thirds grid. It's a great composition technique that will improve your photography.

Horizons on the Thirds

Again, one of the tips for using the rule of thirds is to keep the mind focused on the grid formation. When positioning the horizon of any photograph, don’t place it right in the middle of the photo. Whether you choose to put it closer to the top grid line or the bottom grid line, make sure to place the horizon slightly away from the middle to give the image depth.

Keep Your Subject Looking

A great tip for using the rule of thirds is to keep your subject placed to the side of the frame, so they always have space to look into. Whether your main subject is a person or animal, having them look onward into negative space will give the image depth and give the observer more to think about. They will wonder what the person in the photo is think about, where they could potentially be going. This negative space will present possibility. The rule of thirds grid and the space it provides allows for thought behind the photo. 

Look for Lines in Abstracts

If you are composing your photo as an abstract, you may think that the rule of thirds grid will not work with your composition technique. However, one great tip for using the rule of thirds is to look for lines within abstracts. By adding some sort of line element to an abstract photo and setting up the photo along the grid lines, you can add some harmony to an otherwise chaotic, creative, and fluid photo.

Stay Off Center

Staying off center is the biggest and most important tip for using the rule of thirds, and it is reiterated in every other tip above. The rule of thirds grid provides horizontal and vertical lines to remind the photographer to place important elements away from the center, because it more pleasing to the eye for the focal point to be towards the side of the frame. If the one thing you remember as a photographer when using the rule of thirds is to stay off center, then you know the most important thing about this rule. 

Train Your Eye

Training your eye to use the rule of thirds simply takes practice behind the camera. As you learn to photograph different subjects such as people and animals, different sceneries from city views to mountains, and everything in between such as close ups and abstracts, keep the tips for using the rule of thirds in mind, and your photos will begin to look more and more professional. Anyone can become a photographer if they take into account simple rules like this and train their eye to see things in a more unique way. Get creative, do some research, but also, don’t be afraid of breaking the rules every now and then too!

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