SALES : Enjoy now -20% off the Big Formats!


The rule of thirds

The 19/03/2020 at 19:15

You are just starting out or you are an amateur and you can't be completely satisfied of your shots? 

With Zeinberg, learn more about the rule of thirds, a guideline that has been helping artists and photographers for over 200 years. This principle of composition will allow you to capture your environment with new eyes and immortalize your next discoveries.

It also happens to be one of the easiest ways to instantly improve your photography skills and capture visually appealing and balanced images.



Composition is the deliberate arrangement of the various visual elements that enter the photographed frame. This arrangement must be simple to be effective, and to catch the viewer's eye very quickly.



The composition is the way you're going to make your image speak. The composition include : 

the number of subjects in your photograph (an odd number of subjects often makes the image more dynamic) and the place you give them. 

the play with lines and curves that will reinforce and give your photograph a certain look.

the sharpness of all or part of the image.

the colours and contrasts between dark and light areas, to make your composition more dynamic.


To compose, you will have to move by getting closer to your subject, by creating a frame within the frame, by isolating your subject, by playing with repetitions, by changing your point of view...


A key principle of composition 

Universal foundations of painting and photography, the Rule of Thirds is a technique designed to help artists and photographers create drama and interest in a work. It is based on a principle of proportion and balance of the image. The visible subject in a photograph is then placed in a precise location in the composition, deemed pleasing to the eye of the viewer. 


The rule consists of dividing the image in your camera's viewfinder into nine squares of equal size, in three horizontal bands intersecting three vertical bands, and by drawing between each of these thirds of -imaginary- vertical and horizontal lines. 

The compositional elements of your image will have more strength and will be read more naturally if you place them along the lines of force or at the intersection of the points of impact (where two lines intersect).

Studies have shown that when looking at images, people's eyes generally go to one of the points of intersection more naturally than the centre of the shot - using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of looking at an image rather than working against it.




It should also be noted that some devices, even the vast majority, offer in their options to display a composition grid. 


The rule of thirds in all these states

The rule of thirds is not necessarily used on all subjects. It is most often used in landscape or portrait photography. 

Well understood, it can of course be applied to all photographs. 


The rule applied to portraits



In portraiture, the most important thing is the subject's eyes. The viewer's attention must therefore be focused on the eyes. To do this, nothing could be easier, a simple rule of composition is to place the eyes on the upper horizontal line. You can also use force points for more impact. 

Please note: if the subject is not looking towards the lens but to the side, then leave the largest space in this direction.


For a profile portrait, the rule of thirds allows you to use the negative space (empty areas around the subject) by placing the model at the level of one of the vertical lines and leaving the remaining 2/3 of the image free.  This will give the picture more immensity.


The rule applied to landscapes


In landscape photography, the rule of thirds is often considered the most suitable composition tool. It harmonizes the image and makes its reading more coherent. 

Generally speaking, a very effective technique consists of positioning the horizon on one of the horizontal lines of the two thirds.

Place the horizon on or near the top third line if the sky or background is boring.

Place the horizon on or near the lower third line, if the foreground is interesting.

Although many landscapes have a lot of detail, simplifying your landscape compositions can lead to powerful and striking compositions. To simplify your landscapes, cut out everything that is not absolutely necessary for the composition, make sure that the foreground details are relevant and that the focal point is well-framed.


The rule of third during post-processing

If you have not made a composition before, don't panic, it is always time to rework your composition in post-processing! 

Indeed, you can easily apply the rule of thirds to existing photos by cropping them. This allows you to reposition important subjects in your image, moving them to more pleasant positions.



To help you, software such as Photoshop and Lightroom have built-in "crop guide overlays" that include a rule of third option. This option places a ruler grid above your image when you crop it, allowing you to get the most appropriate position for a more harmonious and aesthetic composition.

Of course, like all art guidelines, the rule of third is only a suggestion. Photographers should not feel the need to constantly follow the rule, because in the end, it does not always give the best results. 

However, for those who are still gaining experience, it provides a useful strategy for learning how to best frame shots. It will allow you to bring out the best in your shot, ready to print in gallery quality.


©Credit @sweet_panorama


Like the greatest photographers, treat to yourself a gallery-quality print of your most beautiful compositions with YellowKorner's laboratory, Zeinberg.


 © 2020 Justine Grosset