The rule of thirds is a key component to taking the perfect picture.  Photographers have used this technique to create the perfect pictures.  Whether you are photographing beautiful scenery, or a muse this technique is a must know.  From professionals to beginners the rule of thirds is a simple technique you can learn quickly.  It’s worth knowing because it makes your image worth more, financially and visually.  This how-to is a simple and quick way to make your photography more valuable.

Definition of the Rule of Thirds: is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section.

How-to Use the Rule of Thirds

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Step 1:  First pick your image that you want to apply the rule of thirds with.  If it’s your first time applying the rule of thirds it is probably best to pick an image with one focal point.  Unless yo are up for the challenge.  Applying the rule of thirds is simple.

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Step 2: Now you need to imagine that there are three even vertical columns of your image.  This is an important part to the thirds rule.  To create the three equal columns imagine there are two vertical lines running down your image.  The lines should be parallel.

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Step 3: Now imagine three even horizontal rows that cross over the vertical columns.  Now you have your grid and it should the vertical and horizontal lines should be perpendicular.  This provides you with your grid that allows you to capture the perfect picture.  It makes positioning more simple.  Your positioning as you will learn later will be in one of the intersections of the grid. The grid above is what the lines should appear as and be your guide line.


Step 4:  Your image is in the middle of the lense now.  This is okay but it is not the best picture that could be taken of the windmill.  By using the grids we will learn how to move the image to an appropriate angle and position to make it a much better shot.


Step 5:  Now envisioning the grids on your image place the focus point or feature of your image where the vertical and horizontal lines cross.  Try to make sure that your focal point is on an intersection of the grid.  This places the image in a a third of your lense.  Also since this image is a tall structure you should line it up with the left vertical line.  Another technique is to line up the horizon line with one of the horizontal lines.  This creates a more focused image.  The rule of thirds makes for a much more valuable image.

Step 6:  Now take the picture! I bet it turned out perfectly and now you have an image that is worth framing in your home, a friends house, museum or maybe even in a photography contest.

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Why Use the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is a technique that makes a composition more interesting and more visually appealing to a human eye.  It keeps photographers from just centering their muse or focal point.  Instead with using the rule of thirds their focal point is more enhanced when placed at an intersection than it is.  The rule of thirds gives your image the perfect focal points and helps to separate the focal points from the background and other parts of the image.  Also, people use the rule of thirds to help get more attention to their image and keep people looking at their image for a longer period of time.  When using the rule of thirds the person viewing your image has to find the focal point and it gives them direction of where to look next.  If you place your focal point in the middle of the image then it splits the photo in half and the viewer does not know where to look next.  This is why if you have ever looked at professional photographers work they never place their focal point in the center of the image.

Tips for Using the Thirds Rule:

  1. Remember that your positioning is what changes the angle.  So make sure you are able to move around and be flexible.  The image will not come to you, so you may have to move around to get the right angle.
  2. Check your distance from the object.  Your distance effects where the focal point is in and how large the image is.  Make sure you are at your desired distance.
  3. Line up the horizon with one of the horizontal lines this gives the image balance and it divides it into a third.  Make sure to line up all natural horizontal lines that run across your image with the grid lines.  This helps to keep the image in thirds.
  4. Use the vertical lines to position people or tall structures in the right spot and to make sure they are not unusually crooked.  This helps to divide the image into thirds and creating a better visual to your audience.
  5. Photoshop and Gimp both have the rule of thirds grid as a tool.  Also iPhones have a setting in which you can get the grid on your phone while taking picture to give you a guide line.
  6. Try to get specific focal points to be in the corners of the middle square.
  7. Don’t be over consumed by where your focal points are.  Just have fun and break the rules.
  8. When on the shoot be aware of your surroundings and be intentional where you place your focal points.
  9. When working with a portrait the eyes are almost always the focal point.  To make the eyes pop you can line each one up with an intersection.  By following the rule of thirds it enhances the eyes and makes them stand out from the rest of the facial features.
  10. Try to keep your focal points on the intersections but also try to make them in a third of the image.  Whether it’s the top, bottom, right, or left third of your image.

Types of Images to Perform the Rule of Thirds:

  1. Portraits
  2. Landscapes
  3. Architecture
  4. Action


The rule of thirds is a very simple photography technique that makes any image more valuable.  It helps to provide your image with a focal point.  Using the rule of thirds helps to create a more interesting image and a better visual for people to enjoy.  Many professional photographers use this rule to help them create certain focal points and to prevent from centering their objects.  Dividing your image into thirds is proven to be more effective than image that has a focal point in the center of the image.  It gives the viewer a sense of direction.  As long as you do not become a perfectionist and have to have your focal points exactly in an intersection, this rule is made to have fun with.  The rule of thirds is an excellent rule to use if you are a photographer.


If you are a visual learner the following examples will help you learn what it looks like to put the rule of thirds into action.

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This photograph is the perfect representation of the rule of thirds.  It uses the top horizontal line to line up with the ceiling and the bottom horizontal to make an intersection where the support beams meet the stairs.  The photo uses the vertical lines to line up the support beams.  This photo follows the rule of thirds exactly.

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In the image above the rule of thirds is present with strong emphasis on the focal points.  The horizon is perfectly aligned with the top horizontal line and where the sand meets the water is lined up with the bottom horizontal line.  Lining up the lines of change divides this photo horizontally into three different parts. The boat, mountains, and beach chairs are all on intersections of the “grid”.  The photographer did a great job at incorporating many focal points and they all are on intersections. This is a perfect example of the rule of thirds.

Rule of Thirds

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This image even has the grid lines on to show the rule of thirds.  It gives you a visual of how the boat and cliff are at intersection points but mainly the ship.  This means the ship is mostly likely intended to be the main focal point.  Also, the pieces of wood are lined across the bottom horizontal line.  This is another focal point of the image.  This photographer had a great eye for the rule of thirds.

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The rule of thirds can be applied in every photo.  This cheetah is a perfect example of landscape with a muse.  The cheetah is aligned with the left vertical line.  This provides the image with a focal point.  The technique of aligning images with a vertical line is used for many images that include animals, humans, architecture and much more.


About the author

is a London-based SEO consultant, dedicated traveller, and has recently started writing things on Allotment Digital. You can get hold of him by emailing him, tweeting him @KiwiAlec, or by walking around London, calling out his name.

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