Rule of Thirds – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

Last week I talked about framing for printing. I had expected to have a review of Microsoft Digital Imaging Suite Plus to discuss today, but had problems with hardware for the video portion of the review so that will have to wait until next week. The software consists of both a still image editor and a video editor (from Pinnacle). This week I will discuss the rule of thirds.

This week’s tip is a compositional tip intended to further help you create dramatic photographs. The rule of thirds (really more of a good guideline) states major elements in your photograph should fall in one of the outside thirds of the photo, or on the intersecting point, when the photo is divided into 3 equal vertical sections and 3 equal horizontal sections. The image below provides a good example on how your viewfinder would be broken up using the rule of thirds as your guide. The red dots are of course the intersection of the thirds.

In the following two photographs, I have overlayed the above image to show how the elements in the photo line up with the rule of thirds guidelines. Notice how the spring on the left is placed on the bottom right intersection and the red barn in the right image is on the upper right intersection. Also notice that the shadow of the spring follows along the line dividing the lower third from the middle third.

In the following photograph of some Freezies, the intersection of the Freezies falls on the intersection of the thirds and the orange Freezies extend along the horizontal and vertical third indicators. This could have been centered, and would have looked acceptable, but is a stronger composition when it is offset.

The last image below does not have a subject that can be easily placed on one of the intersections, but the horizon has been placed in the top third of the photo. When shooting a horizon, it is usually best not to center it but to place it in the top or bottom third of the photograph as shown. Strong vertical elements should be placed in the left or right third as shown in the Freezie photo.

(click on any of the four photos to see the full size image)

Does this mean that a subject should never be placed in the center? Of course not, that is why the Rule of Thirds should really more of a guideline than a rule. Many digital cameras have a grid overlay that will help you compose using the rule of thirds. Read your manual to find out if your digital camera can do it.

Next week I will have my Microsoft Digital Imaging Suite review complete (my video problems have been corrected). I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday and gets in some good shooting!

The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the vice-president of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to

Comments 1

  • Thank you for the excellent examples of each part. I am substituting for a photography instructor and must teach this concept today. Your description, examples and explanation have been most helpful.

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