Here’s the cool thing about photography, particularly fashion photography. You get to break all the rules and still have the potential to create amazing art. How many fields are there in which you get to be a completely irreverent rule-breaker and still be considered amazingly talented? Not too many.
But I think to be a talented rule breaker, you need to know the rules. So today you and I are going to quickly whiz through the concept of the ‘rule of thirds.’ And once you have a good grasp on the concept, you’ll have the power to know when and where to use it, and when and where to ignore it and go your own free wheeling, non conformist way.
So what exactly is the rule of thirds? Well, it’s a fairly basic concept in photography that, when used properly can help you make your images more appealing and more powerful. It’s a concept that allows you, as the photographer, to use composition to your best advantage and potentially control how a viewer will respond to your image. In short, the rule of thirds is a guideline that you can use to draw the viewer’s eye exactly to the aspects you’d like it to be drawn to.
To see how the rule works, you need to break an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. See below:
Now here’s the interesting point. Studies have shown that when people view images, their eyes naturally go to the intersection points more than they go to the center of the shot (don’t ask me why, we are a strange and complicated people). So these spots (see the 4 grey circles above) can be considered the power spots of the image. In addition, the 4 lines are also powerful points.
The image below is one I photographed for a lookbook for the line, PopPiece (an absolutely gorgeous line consisting of all animal-friendly, faux leather and fur). To see more images, take a peek here. Chloe Holmes, the model, btw, is not too hard on the eyes.
Anywho, notice how I composed the image. You see how Chloe’s eye and extended arm line up along the right vertical line? This area is where all the drama of the shot is, and this is where I want you to put your attention. So by composing the image such that the drama happens along the line where your eye is drawn, the image becomes more aesthetically pleasing and imapactful.
In addition, keep the horizonal lines in mind as great places to place your horizon! This can often increase the appeal and power of images in which the landscape plays a major role. The image below is an image I shot of beautiful Sydne Summer for her style blog, Sydne Style. Notice how the horizon lines up with the upper horizontal line and how Sydne lines up on the left vertical line?
Here are some good questions to ask yourself when setting up a shot.
What exactly are my points of interest?
Where can I place my points of interest such that the image will make sense and impact the maximum amount of power?
Can I use the intersections of the 4 lines of the image as practical places in which to place my points of interest?
Some cameras come equipped with grids that allow you to see the intersecting lines right over the image in the view finder so you can compose your image with the rule of thirds in mind. You can also shoot as you like with no concern at all for the rule of thirds, and then decide to crop the image in post production using the concept. It’s up to you.
Now the last thing I’m going to say is that I don’t suggest you necessarily rigidly follow the rule of thirds for all images. The power of an image is a finely tuned dance that may include composition, color, tonal balance, and focus, etc. The power of the image is not contingent on one factor alone. I often place my subjects dead center as dead center sometimes is the most powerful place for them to be (based on the other factors of the image).
So keep the rule of thirds in mind at all times when setting up your shots and when editing your shots in post production, but don’t feel as though it is the only technique or concept you can use to make your images powerful. It is simply one tool you can implement. Sometimes it will work magic and sometimes, surprisingly, it will work against you. Over time your eye will become more trained (what is difficult at the beginning always becomes easier over time with practice) and you’ll know when and where to use it and when and where to say thank you for sharing, but no thanks.
Interested in learning more photo tips? Check out this post as well: How to take Amazing Photos, Part I
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