One simple rule of composition to take your photos from blah to great!

Hi guys, Brent here. I recently had the opportunity to shoot some beautiful scenery near Ballina along the north coast of New South Wales, Australia. The area is simply gorgeous and the mist made a perfect backdrop for the trees up on the hill. Mist and fog are always great for giving an etheric feel to just about any landscape and I love photographing in these conditions.

Because contrast is low in this type of weather, it is important to know how to make your subject stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is through composition. On this day, I chose to use the Rule of Thirds, one of the most fundamental tips of composition.

Watch this video as I show you how you can take your photos from just okay to awesome, just by moving your camera a little up or a little down. It’s amazing and what a huge difference a little tilt of the camera can make.

In this episode:

(00:22) – Composition and rule of 3rds
(01:22) – Why use the rule of 3rds

Why the Rule of Thirds?

Most people compose their images with the subject directly in the middle of the image, which looks okay. But using the Rule of Thirds really kicks it up a notch as you can see in the video.

The Rule of Thirds creates a much more powerful composition and really gives your photo that WOW! factor. It makes your images much more interesting and visually appealing. And it really allows you to isolate your subject.

Composing the Image

For this photo, I decided to hand hold my camera using a vertical orientation at a focal length of 100mm. Because I hand held the camera, I needed to use a faster shutter speed to get a sharp image. If you use a shutter speed that is too slow for your focal length when hand holding, you will get a blurry image. In this instance, I used 1/200th of a second.

To determine the composition using the Rule of Thirds, divide your frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically. This gives you four lines that intersect to create nine equal sized boxes. Where the lines intersect is where you want to place your point(s) of interest. The horizontal and vertical lines used to divide the frame can also be used as guidelines for placing other supporting elements in the photo.

For this tree photo, I decided to use the top horizontal line of my Rule of Thirds grid as my guide for the scene’s horizon placement. This allowed the tree to take center stage and stand out as the main feature in the photo. Notice how the hill leads your eyes right up to the tree on the top of hill by using this composition. It is much more powerful than when I placed the tree in the middle.

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Keep it Simple

Composition is one of the most important aspects of any photo. Although not the only rule of composition, the Rule of Thirds is probably the most well known and simple to use and makes a big difference in your final image.

Remember to either use the grid overlay in camera if you have that feature or mentally visualize the grid when composing your photos. Both the lines and their resulting intersections make great placement guides for your subject(s) and supporting elements.

You can’t go wrong with the Rule of Thirds. And the more you practice it, the more natural it will become to use. Before you know it, you’ll be composing like a pro!

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