What is the Rule of Thirds?

What is the Rule of Thirds?

Being among the best photo booth hire services anywhere from Berkhamsted to Amersham, we know a thing or two about what goes into a quality photograph. This week, we’d like to share with you a photography technique that’s used by amateurs and veterans alike.

If you’re an aspiring photographer, or you spend any amount of time in the company of one, then you might have heard of something called the ‘rule of thirds’. This simple technique has allowed snappers to compose balanced images for as long as photography has been around.

How do I use thirds in my photographs?

When you’re framing your shot, mentally divide the image into an equally-spaced 3×3 grid. If your camera is sufficiently smart, then it might come with a feature that does this for you; but if you take enough photos in this way you’ll learn to slip an accurate grid over the image in your mind.

The four points where the lines intersect are where people’s attention will naturally be drawn. By placing your subjects at these points, rather than at the dead centre of the shot, you’ll create an image that’s more natural and pleasing to look at. The rule becomes particularly important when you’re photographing a horizon. If it runs straight through the middle, it will divide your image into two equal halves. It will be unclear which is the focal point, and the result will be a confusing image.

If you’re taking pictures of people, then the best bet is to pay attention to the direction in which they’re looking and frame them on the opposite side of the shot. If they’re looking right, for example, then try framing them on the left and aligning their eyes with a point where the lines cross on the right-hand-side of the image.

Do I have to use the rule of thirds?

Despite it being called a ‘rule’, the rule of thirds is more like a guideline. Some sorts of photo benefit from symmetry, and so if you feel like your subject absolutely must go in the centre of the shot, don’t feel you have to offset it. This sort of shot, however, is a little more unforgiving; if there’s a very slight asymmetry, then the eye might struggle to reconcile it. You’ll therefore need to be very careful with your framing.

Who came up with the rule of thirds?

This popular photography technique, ironically, came about well before the development of the first camera. We don’t know who exactly came up with it. What we do know is that it was first referred to in print by an English engraver named John Thomas Smith, in his 1797 work ‘Remarks on Rural Scenery’. His book was concerned with countryside landscapes, but the rule he described can be applied just as easily to urban candid-shots and formal portraits at weddings.