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Apr 12, 2020
Taking great pictures can be easily achieved by follow one simple rule. All photographers know this rule and apply it to the majority of their photos. It is called the rule of thirds. It is a relatively easy rule to apply and once you get used to using it, it will become second nature. The rule is: take the scene you are looking at and imagine dividing it up into a grid of 9 equal parts. It looks like this.
The composition of the scene should fall evenly into the squares having equal parts foreground, middle ground and background. In most landscape photos the foreground would be the grass or area closest to you, the middle ground some mountains, ocean, trees or something and the background would be the sky. Look at this example with the horizontal lines overlaid.
You can see the lines intersect natural transition points in the photo. The foreground is the mountain closest to me, the middle ground is the farther mountain along with the ocean. The background which starts a fraction of an inch above the upper line is the sky. The photo is weighted evenly which gives your eye a natural progression through the scene.
Now let’s look at the vertical lines. They should do the same thing and help the photo to feel evenly weighted. Any objects in the photo should fill the space and/or just touch up against the next space. Here is an example with the lines overlaid.
You can see how the larger trees fill the two outside spaces with primarily the row between them filling the center space. The photo is evenly weighted drawing your eye in towards the center and not off to one side or another.
Finally we will look at the whole grid, both vertical and horizontal lines. As I pointed out before any objects in the photo should touch up against the grid lines. They can spill over a bit but mainly stay in their grid space. The whole scene should be nicely arranged and feel evenly distributed in the spaces. This will help the viewer take in the whole scene and not have the eye pulled unnaturally in one direction or the other. There shouldn’t be excessive foreground or background but mostly even amounts of each. Here is an example with the full grid in place.
Notice that the bridge sits very much in the center grid space. The left side of it touches the grid line almost exactly as does the branches of the tree on the left of the scene. The picture is very evenly weighted. It’s not to say that objects have to be centered. In fact, quite the contrary. Often times off center objects or odd numbered groups of objects are more visually appealing. You just need them to be placed correctly in the scene.
Next time you are taking pictures visualize this grid over what you see in your camera finder or on your phone and shift it around until you have a nice layout that fits in the grid. Your pictures will come out nicely weighted and visually pleasing. Practicing this will help it come naturally and before you know it you will have wonderful photos that everyone wants to copy!
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