Composition and the Rule of Thirds

What makes an image look good? Are there any guidelines to follow?


Above: Lets take a recent example of a photograph I took in South Africa. I have been trying to get this image for a while now, and this is a classic composition where I used the rule of 3rds. I photographed this zebra with this image in mind, there has been no cropping and I had to get very close to capture this image.

One of the composition rules that we learn in photography is called the rule of thirds.

This is where we break up a picture into 1/3 blocks horizontally and vertically. Where the lines intersect at the points of interest.

So what are points of interest? The eye naturally moves to areas within the image looking for lighter areas, or areas that are in focus or have more contrast.  If these areas fall within these intersection points, then the image has a more pleasing composition.

So lets take this image of the zebra and analyse how it works.

First we cut up the image into 3rds. Divide the image into 3 equal parts vertically and horizontally.

Notice where the lines intersect? These positions within the image are where the focal points, or points of interest should be situated.

Check out the following image. Notice where the focal points are?

So which focal point did I choose to be the primary point of interest in this image?

The zebra eye is the place I want the viewer to settle on in this image. It’s the sharpest, most in-focus and the warmest (more red/yellow) part of this image. Lets have a closer look at the zebra’s eye.

Notice how I used a shallow depth-of-field to achieve the eye in-focus and the rest of the zebra to be out-of-focus. I did this by using a wide-open aperture. Check out my video on aperture and depth-of-field if you want to know how to do it.

rule of 3rds

So, do you think the rule of 3rds has made this image better? Please leave your comments below.



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