The Rule of Thirds is a compositional principle that is widely used. And for good reason because, well, it works. At least, it works in a lot of situations.
What is the Rule of Thirds? You superimpose a tic-tac-toe grid on your image, two vertical lines equally spaced and two horizontal lines equally spaced. Then you place the key elements of your image on or near those lines, or at one of their intersections. They don’t have to be exactly on the lines or intersections, just near them. This is art, not engineering, so it’s important that it feels right. But the Rule of Thirds gives us positions that are visually very strong and command the viewer’s attention. That’s why you want to use this principle for the key elements of your composition, the elements you want to draw the viewer’s eye to.
One should be cautious in overusing the Rule of Thirds. It should not be applied mechanically and certainly not universally. It does not apply to all compositions. After all, aren’t our ‘Rules’ of composition made to be broken? But on the other hand, sometimes a composition gets just a little bit stronger when you move the key element just a tiny bit to place it closer to or right on a 1/3rd line.
The fact is it works so well in so many situations that the camera manufacturers give us the ability to display the grid on our camera’s LCD screens and viewfinders. Also, software publishers like Adobe display the grid when we use the crop tool. This is true of Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop. And these aids can be very helpful in achieving strong compositions.
Why does the Rule of Thirds work so well? To answer that let’s talk about Visual Tension.
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The next step in selecting the best photograph from among the photographs I captured in 2012 is completed. And you have spoken in a loud and clear voice.
We are doing this one area at a time. The first was the California Deserts. Next came the Eastern Sierra. This round was magnificent Big Sur. And since I was there three times in 2012 there were a host of photographs to choose from – ten in all.
How did it turn out you ask? Let’s get right into the results and this time we’ll start with the most popular photograph.
In the number 1 position is Sunset, Pfeiffer Beach.
Everyone loves a beautiful sunset. But Mother Nature doesn’t pass them out freely. So you need to be patient and ready for them when they happen.
Sunset photographs have the best color when they’re underexposed a bit. But they are so inspiring that too often not enough attention is paid to the foreground. On this evening I sprinted 100 yards or so down the sandy beach to work the rock outcrop into the composition. And it worked well with the triangular shape of the rock mirroring the diagonal sweep of the clouds.
But that wasn’t enough for an strong foreground. It was important to capture an interesting pattern in the surf which completed the composition.
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