Sunday, 13 November 2016

175: Follow the Rule of Thirds for better pictures

There's a Facebook group to which I belong called "Snap... Do It!" (found here) that has a fun premise. The group's admins post 15 challenges twice a month -- words and phrases like "Animals" or "Falling Leaves" -- and then the group's members create and post Second Life pictures as they're inspired by the challenges.
  One such challenge recently was listed, "Headshot using Rule of Thirds". Now, I'm not very experienced with photography in real life; I gather that the
Rule of Thirds is well-known as a basic photographic axiom, I'd just never heard of it before. So I looked it up in Wikipedia and tried to experiment with it.
  My fellow photographers in the group seemed to have never heard of it either, frankly. There were quite a few headshots submitted, but once I read up on the Rule of Thirds, it seemed as though very few people were using it. So I thought I'd prepare a little tutorial piece here that may help you take better
pictures. It's certainly helped me look at my own visual composition more carefully before I take the shot!
   The Rule of Thirds works like this. Whenever you're composing a visual image, in your mind you can take two vertical lines and two horizontal lines and divide the image into a kind of tic-tac-toe board -- like the black lines on white background you'll see in this post.
There's some scientific research to suggest that the viewer's eye is attracted to the places where the lines cross (see the image with percentages). So if you want to make a more interesting image, you put things at those crossing points that you want the viewer to see, and they will look at the picture a few extra seconds. There's another couple of principles that go along with it. In terms of photographing people, you try to put the eyes along the top horizontal line (see the picture at the top of this post),
and the vertical line of the body down one of the vertical lines (see the third picture from the top, of the man on the phone).
  At the end of the pictures to the left, I've put my own entry in this category to the "Rule of Thirds" challenge in my Facebook group. I knew I wanted to have a photograph that had strong horizontal and vertical lines, so that I could play with the idea of dividing up the image, and I wanted to try to line up the topmost horizontal line so that it went
through my eyes, as it were. So the first one is the unprocessed shot and the second image is one where I went into Preview and, using a primitive annotation tool, added some lines to approximate the Rule of Thirds grid. The measurements are absolutely not exact.
  I don't think I did so bad, all things considered. I hit one of the vertical lines pretty much exactly, and the top horizontal line is not too far from my eye-line. With a little practice I'm sure I'll get better.
  As I discovered in my brief investigation of this concept, as you get to be a better photographer, there's a bunch of people who suggest that you should break the Rule of Thirds rule ... play with it, subvert it, joke with it so that other photographers will be amused by your approach. That's going to take a little more experience than I have at the moment. The one thing I do know is that I'm not going back to the "basic selfie pose" that you see at the end of the images here. Yes, it looks like me, and yes, it documents a moment and an outfit (and my crazy new hat and hair! LOL) but I could have made it a lot more memorable with the Rule of Thirds.


  1. This is a great article. A great rule to follow,

  2. Thanks Carl! This one seems easy to remember and it also seems to work. I like sharing those when I find them!