The Rule of Thirds - Lesson 1

Why do you want to take pictures? What motivates you to learn photography?

There are many good reasons and I’m sure you could think of a whole list, but the point is that you want to learn, so let’s get started!

Guideline #1:

Several of you have probably heard of the Rule of Thirds. If you haven’t, it’s simple. Let me explain.

Look at the horizon in this picture. Do you see how it splits the photo in half? Unless the scene is a peaceful one and the subject is a mirror image such as a mountain and a lake with a reflection of the mountain in the water, it is unlikely that cutting your image in two with the horizon is a good idea.

Instead, place the horizon in either the top or the bottom third of the picture, like this:
See how much more impact the photo has? Focusing attention on either the sky or the foreground makes the scene much more exciting! (which, of course, is the goal!)

Don’t know where to put the horizon? (Ground or sky – how can you tell?) 
Answer: Which is more interesting? That is what you should emphasize and include more of in your picture.

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board placed over the screen or viewfinder of your camera. The places where the grid lines intersect are great spots to position your subjects. Here, the horizon falls along the first horizontal grid line and the rainbows are both at least slightly off center.

When doing a portrait, don’t place the eyes of the person smack dab in the center of the frame. 
How boring! 
Try something like this instead:
(Note: Look at how the violin bow cuts the picture in half. If I was to take this picture again, I would remove the violin bow or position it somewhere else.)

So, how does the rule of thirds work with your camera? 
This depends on what method the camera is set to use to decide where to focus in the scene. For most point-and-shoot cameras, it works best if you point the camera at the subject, press the shutter button down halfway to focus, keep holding it halfway down while you recompose the shot (recompose = move the camera) to follow the rule of thirds, and then press the shutter button down all the way to take the picture. Whew!!! (Don’t worry! With a bit of practice, this will become soooo easy and soon be second nature.)

SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras (ones that can change lenses) can use the method above, or they can change where the camera’s focus point is. (This is the way I do it.) Look up how to do this in your camera manual. Some point-and-shoot owners can also do this – they can put the place where the camera focuses somewhere else in the picture.

      This week, take at least 10 pictures using these techniques. Getting used to the "how" in the technical part of taking pictures using the Rule of Thirds is important so you can concentrate on capturing the emotion and excitement of the moment.

If you would like, send the best picture you've taken following the Rule of Thirds to me. I'd love to see your progress! (Send a low resolution picture - 200KB or smaller.)

By following this guideline, you are on your way to becoming an amazing photographer!


Come back soon for Lesson 2 in your astonishing journey toward success!

"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: 
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
Jeremiah 31:3b