Today we are going back to the basics to help everyone out there take a better photo.
This is photography kindergarten. Maybe pre-K. So if you are an old pro…just roll your eyes at this post and move it right along.
Today we are talking about the rule of thirds. In photography it is a basic principle to help the picture achieve balance and visually be more interesting. I remember when I was a wee little lad in the land of India (yes I am a weirdo), I watched this wonderfully masterful painter with the most exquisite hairdo….his name? Bob Ross. In one of the episodes, he talked about how your eye should travel along the painting…in a circle like pattern so that you stayed enraptured with his hair…I mean…art. Basically, your eye naturally rests in certain spots when you are looking at art or a picture or that five pound bag of peanut M&M’s. Those spots – let’s call them POWER POINTS, are the place where you want the focal of the photo. So where are these elusive power points? Glad you asked.
Let’s take a regular old photo and work through this together…
First you divide your photo in thirds both vertically and horizontally creating nine zones. Those dividing lines (shown below in bright blue) can be part of your camera’s view finder or be just in your head (instead of “I see dead people” you can think “I see divided people”). Either way, this divided frame is helpful in composing a photo. You want to put your photo’s subject (people’s eyes, their profile, that ugly bird you must capture, etc.) along those lines. The power points are the intersections of those blue lines. There is a very specific power point that draws your eye right to my eye. We are basically looking at each other…right…now.
Your eye should then travel over to LJ’s head….then along my bent arm and then back up to my face…..in a circle like motion. That Bob Ross is a frickin’ genius.
Here’s another example of power points. Take a look at the photo below. Note where your eye naturally interacts on an initial basis. Is the first place you look into his face? His hand? That black line at the top of the photo?
If you answered his eye, it is because that is a natural resting spot for your eye because it is a power point. Throw our dividing lines on top of the photo and you can see that intersection on the top right is right on top of the cuties eyeball. Your eye travels from his face down that 1/3 line and to his clothing/hand then over to his feet…back to his face…in a circular fashion.
This rule is definitely not a steadfast-never-break-it-or-you-shall-die kinda thing…it’s more of a guideline. At the end of the day, you want to create visual interest and putting your subject in the very center doesn’t create balance or keep your eye engaged in the photo. There are times when I break this rule…like for instance putting the subject off the third lines to the extreme left or right.
Take this photo for example. You can see that I put LJ’s stink eye to the far right of the photo.
I could have cropped it like below to make his eyes more of the focal point. But instead I prefer the one above because it makes you look at what he is looking at. To me, that is more visually interesting because it tells more of a story.
Here is another reason to break that rule of thirds in post processing….when cropping means violence.
If you are trying to crop to put your person in that dividing line or to make their face fall on a power point…that is fine and dandy until someone gets photoshop-hurt. Don’t chop off the hands, head, feet or body parts in your crop just to make it fall exactly on that line. Stop the violence people.
So now here comes some more examples for you of how I composed photos and you can see how the face or eyes or point of interest falls right on that power point or dividing line.
So next time you are setting up to snap a photo…remember to move your body back and forward and move that camera left and right to compose for max interest and balance! Hope this helps! Happy shooting!
p.s. Chelsea at the blog Two Twenty One interviewed me for her mom series! Hard hitting mommy questions. CNN type stuff. Click here to read.