Photo Friday: Rule of Thirds

Photo Fridays are a chance to learn to take better vacation photos. Now let me qualify my “experience” by saying I am an amateur photographer. An amateur with a simple point and shoot. I take bad pictures more than you will ever know. But along the way I have learned to take better pictures and my photo quality has improved over time. So the things I have learned, you can learn too. I will try to follow a nice philosophy via the Photo Friday posts- KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid, with me being the stupid one here of course). So let’s begin!

This week’s lesson is the Rule of Thirds. It should be said in a dark crazy voice with hands waving and a thunderbolt somewhere in the background. Once upon a time I did actually take a math class that explains all the secret meanings about why this rule is important but I promise you don’t want to hear about phi and tao and all that crazy math stuff. You want to know how to take better photos so let me tell you, the only numbers you need to know are 3, 4 and 9.

Rule of Thirds

A blank Rule of Thirds Grid

When you’re taking a horizontal photo, your photo can be divided up into thirds, first from left to right, then from top to bottom. That’s our number 3. You now have 9 squares and you have 4 magic points where all these lines meet. If you understand that, you know all the theory you need to take a better shot. In the future we’ll build on this with scenery shots and motion, but for now we’ll stick with posed still shots.

Here’s how it works. I took a picture of my dog the other day and did some color editing but I left the picture framing alone.

Nova demonstrates the Rule of Thirds

My dog, Nova, demonstrates the Rule of Thirds

When I took the picture, I used the right vertical line and tried to line her body up with it. Then I used the top horizontal line and attempted to place her eye on it. For my own eyeballing as I took the shot, I wasn’t too far off. So Tip #1, line a body with the vertical line. Tip #2, Put the eyes or head where that vertical line meets a horizontal line. Let’s try again with a Lego Man I took on a trip to Chicago.

Straight out of camera shot of Mr. Lego Man

This is the photo exactly as I took it with the Rule of Thirds diagram overlaying it. As you can see, I had the right idea but I was a little off. Here’s tip #3, you can fix it later. Just because your photo doesn’t appear to follow the rule of thirds doesn’t mean you can’t change that. I popped my guy into my photo-editing software (I use Adobe Photoshop CS4 but you can easily use Photoshop Elements, GIMP or with the right tools, software that comes standard with your computer) I noticed my guy was off a little to the right of my vertical line so I cropped off some of the left side of the photo. I noticed his head was not at the horizontal line but in fact above it so I cropped the bottom border up. It’s not an exact science (at least not on this blog) but here’s the after shot:

Mr. Lego Man attempting to follow the Rule of Thirds

And here’s a side-by-side comparison:

On the left: Before, On the right: After

The difference is subtle but notice how the photo on the right has less of the distracting elevator and more of Mr. Lego guy in focus? Which photo shows off the seagull more?

So RULE OF THIRDS (cue thunderbolt) roundup:

Tip #1, Line a body with the vertical line.
Tip #2, Put the eyes or head where that vertical line meets a horizontal line.
Tip #3, You can fix it later.

Try taking some photos and rather than centering your subject, zoom in or out and move around. We’re in a digital age so take dozens of shots to grab that perfect one. Share your best ones here or with your family.

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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