Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds


  1. A compositional guideline in photography that divides an image into nine equal segments by superimposing a grid of three vertical lines and three horizontal lines over the image.
  2. The technique suggests placing key elements of a composition along these lines or at their intersections to achieve visual balance and interest.
  3. Widely used in various visual arts, including photography, painting, and design.


The Rule of Thirds is a compositional principle in photography, art, and design that suggests dividing an image into nine equal parts by using two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. The key elements or focal points of the composition are then placed along these lines or at their intersections. This technique aims to create a more balanced, visually interesting, and dynamic composition by guiding the viewer’s eye through the image. It’s a guideline rather than a strict rule, allowing for artistic flexibility, but it serves as a useful starting point for beginners and a reliable tool for seasoned artists and photographers.

How It Works

The Grid

When applying the Rule of Thirds, imagine your image is divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. This creates a grid over your photograph, either mentally or through a camera feature that superimposes it on your screen.

Placing Elements

Place important compositional elements along these grid lines or at their intersections. For example:

  • A horizon could be aligned with one of the horizontal lines rather than being centered.
  • A person’s eyes might be placed along one of the horizontal lines or at the intersection of a horizontal and vertical line.

This creates a dynamic tension, guiding the viewer’s eye on a journey through your image. Is the rule of thirds a must-use rule? No! The rule of thirds is a guide, to help photographers navigate the challenges of artistic composition. The rule of thirds is a tool to help you create visually stimulating and emotionally resonant images.

Why Does This Work?

Humans are naturally drawn to off-center elements. The Rule of Thirds taps into this innate tendency, creating a sense of balance and visual interest. Think of it like placing the main character slightly to the side of the stage, drawing the audience in and captivating their attention.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  1. Visual Balance: The Rule of Thirds helps distribute visual weight across the image, making it more balanced and easy to navigate.
  2. Focus and Engagement: By placing key elements at strategic points, the Rule of Thirds can help draw the viewer’s eye naturally through the image.
  3. Flexibility: The rule is simple enough to be applied in various types of photography and even in other visual arts.


  1. Overuse: Because it’s a well-known technique, it can be overused, leading to predictable or formulaic compositions.
  2. Limitation: Not all subjects or scenes lend themselves well to the Rule of Thirds; sometimes breaking the rule can result in a more compelling composition.

Best Practices

Compositional Tips

  • Use the Rule of Thirds as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to deviate when the scene calls for it.
  • Keep an eye out for natural lines in your composition that can be aligned with the grid lines, such as horizons, roads, or buildings.
  • In dynamic scenes, you can use the Rule of Thirds to predict where an action will take place and compose your shot accordingly.

Technical Aspects

  • Many cameras and smartphones come with an option to display a Rule of Thirds grid on the viewfinder or screen.
  • If your camera doesn’t have this feature, some post-processing software allows you to overlay a grid to aid in cropping and alignment.


The Rule of Thirds is a simple yet effective guideline used to improve the composition and balance of images. While it’s a foundational concept for beginners, even seasoned photographers and artists find it useful. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all rule and should be used judiciously, taking into account the subject and the artistic intent. The Rule of Thirds serves as a valuable guideline for both beginners and professionals. This flexible tool encourages artistic exploration, allowing us to break the mold and unleash our creativity.

Sebastian Chase
Sebastian Chase

Sebasitan Chase is a mobile digital photographer who enjoys trying out new mobile technologies, and figuring out how to get them to deliver high-quality images with minimal effort.Join him on his mission to help mobile photographers create incredible images and videos with their new-age digital cameras, no matter the form that they may take.

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