What is the Rule of Thirds? 19 Basic rules for composing images

Who invented the rule of thirds? Believe it or not, it was first talked about in 1797. Of course, it wasn’t about photography, but withdrawing – the principles were the same. Back then, people were debating the balance between warm and cool colors and how much painting each element should occupy. They said that the lower third should consist of earth and water, and the other two-thirds should be left for air and sky, hence the idea of ​​the name.

The rule of thirds is based on dividing the frame to be photographed into two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, so that they form a grid consisting of 9 squares, always try to place the targets that you want to photograph at the intersection of these lines, which are four points in the center of the grid. Many modern smartphones allow you to display this grid on its screen in order to facilitate the process of appropriate installation of the image, the same applies to the screen of the digital camera.

In terms of creativity and thinking about taking pictures in a different way, there are always some basics and simple parts that any photographer must recognize.
However its when a photographer wants to obtain Photographic results that are elegant and distinctive that we need to talk about these basics, such as the rule of thirds, which is one of most important elements that must be focused on realistically and seriously while dealing with the camera in photography.
If you really want to achieve perfect results with high quality, do not forget, or never neglect this golden rule despite its simplicity in the world of photography.
It’s enough to give you the opportunity to compose your photos perfectly.

What is the principle of the rule of thirds?

At the intersection of these lines, which are four points in the center of the grid. Many modern smartphones allow you to display these lines on its screen to facilitate the appropriate installation of the image. The same applies to the digital camera screen, whether it is built-in or reflex, the rapid technological development in this area helps the photographer develop greatly without trouble.

Rule of Thirds

How to apply the rule of thirds?

Rule of Thirds

Also Read: Ideas, Tips & Techniques For Best Portrait Photography

The rule of thirds is applied according to the type of photography that the photographer chooses, but as a general principle, when we photograph a specific target, and it appears complete in the image, this target must be either in the rectangle on the right or the left or in the rectangle above or below. In the case of portraiture, the issue of focusing on placing the subject at the intersection of the two vertical and horizontal lines that form nine squares in the camera screen must be taken into consideration.

Rule of Thirds

For example, the picture of the child that appears shows how the child is placed in the rectangle on the right side, as it appears completely in the image, while the photographer’s image that appears at the beginning of the subject is in which the photographer is placed at the upper intersection point on the left side.

The importance of the rule of thirds in the composition of the picture

When we talk about the rule of thirds, we must always bring up a very important question, Where can this rule be used appropriately? What is its purpose?

Here is a video explaining it in 5 minutes

Quite simply, every amateur photographer must know clearly that the composition of the image is the most important thing that he/she must learn from the beginning, but if he is a professional photographer, he/she must be very careful not to lose this rule during his/her composing the image. It is only through the final image that we can judge the experience of the photographer in the world of photography, as we can also know whether he/she is a really professional photographer or is it just a title he/she only holds.

19 Basic rules for composing images in photography


Meaning, visualize the image in your mind before pressing the photography button, when you want to take a picture of a scene, you must first imagine what this image will look like in the end, and how it will express the feeling that you want to convey to the viewer. For example, will the colors in the scene help convey your idea, or will the concept be better expressed in a shade of gray? Does the scene require sharpness and clarity, or will some mystery create a better feeling? And so on.


Interior poster mock up living room with colorful white sofa . 3D rendering.

Simplicity is one of the best ways to improve your photos, so if you are a beginner, it is recommended to search for the simplest possible scenes to photograph, this does not mean that complex or chaotic scenes should be avoided, but it needs a lot of effort in photography. You may have seen many wonderful pictures of forests and crowded landscapes, despite their complexity, as shown in the image below.

This is based on practice. The more pictures you take the easier it will be to shoot these scenes, but as a beginner, you should focus only on shooting simple scenes.

Going back to composition in photography, simplicity is one of the basics. When I find a scene that interests me, I look for what I can delete in that scene to make the image look stronger, for example to create a bleak picture, exclude the cheerful flowers.

In other words, simplicity is to clarify your message by excluding details that do not express what you want to convey to the viewer through your image.

Visual balance

One of the most important decisions to make when shooting is whether or not you want to balance your image, in other words, will the image tilt to the right or left to create a feeling of tension, or will it have an equal balance to appear more stable and more harmonious.

Opinions differ on this point. Some photographers prefer the unbalanced or tense image, because it conveys the idea more effectively, while others prefer the balanced image that is more satisfying.

As a summary:

  • Balanced images are steady and quiet.
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  • Unbalanced images are dramatic, tense and dynamic.
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Give the picture elements breathing space

When you are photographing, you have to leave a breathing space between the elements of your image, so as not to create some noise at the level of the image, and to lose the message you want to convey.

For example, if you are photographing a mountain, you should look for a good photographic angle that allows the mountain and the tree to appear together in the image, and not part of the mountain covered by the tree.

To create the effect to be conveyed to the viewer, sometimes the photographer is able to move components to get a better composition, and at other times he must move to a position that provides him with the best composition.

Give importance to aspects of the

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The sides or edges of the image are just as important as the center, in some scenes it may be more important than the center, a slight distraction near the edge of the frame has a much greater effect than the same dispersion near the center.

Keep moving

Taking good photographs you need to move, walk or run if necessary, to experiment with different angles and to get proper composition, good lighting, etc.

The photographer tends sometimes to rush with the change of light, jumping from one point to another to achieve its goal, but there are some exceptions, for example, wildlife photography, arranging a studio scene, or macro photography, in these cases you may not move much but, definitely also needs this kind of photography.

The usage of the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the basic principles that are often used universally in creating an image, and the reason for this is: Because its use is so simple, it makes a big difference to the look of the final image.

This rule states, if you place the main subject of your photo in the top or bottom, left or right sections of the grid, you will take a perfect photo.

Or, you can place important elements of your scene along those lines, or at points where they meet.

In this image, the bottom third of the earth, the remaining two-thirds of the sky, and most importantly the tree, which is the main subject of the image, are located on one of the lines, the second tree in the background, and is near to the point of intersection of the lines. This means that the rule of thirds was successfully applied to this image.

You don’t necessarily follow the same methodology as this photo, but you should follow the rule in general to get a good composition for your photo.

When photographing a person, place the eye closest to the camera on one of the intersecting points.

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Take advantage of leading lines and shapes

Lines and shapes are naturally created by our eyes. You can use this to your advantage, by guiding the viewer’s eyes through shapes.

Roads, bridges, and even paths are good for this type of configuration, because they contain lines that become narrow towards the far end, leading the viewer’s eye to the main places in the image, such as building lines leading to the sky, or a pathway leading to a person standing at their end … and so on.

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As you practice this technique, you will find that many shapes and lines exist around you. You will often find traditional and clearly defined shapes, such as windows and doors, and you can also find compound shapes.

Feel free to move around and change the frame, to find these interesting shapes and lines.


Repetition in composition photography leads the viewer’s eye to your subject in the same way that the main lines we talked about in the previous paragraph do, so you will often find yourself combining these two techniques when creating an image.

In this image, to draw attention to the main theme of the reflection of sunlight on glass, the rule of repetition is used.

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Color, shape, parts of objects, or even whole objects can be duplicated into a powerful composition.

Fill in the frame

The frame refers to the sides of the image or the edges of the camera lens. When shooting to fill the frame, you must approach the subject, either by moving towards it, or zooming in towards it with the viewfinder.

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Filling in the frame allows you to focus on your subject, such as facial expressions and some details that may not be noticeable.

Cropping while adjusting the image later also makes your image look like a close-up shot, but bear in mind that you risk significantly reducing image resolution and quality.

Frame within a frame

The simplified meaning of framing is when an element in an image is used to frame the main subject, and the aim is to lead the viewer’s eye towards that subject.

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And the frame in this case is not just limited to doors and windows, but anything you want; Caves, leaves, your hands … etc.

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Avoid cutting the limbs

Make sure not to cut off any part of the person / animal you are photographing. Cutting your cat’s tail, dog’s ear, or part of the person’s head will not only spoil the photo, but may divert attention from what the viewer should be looking at.

Of course there are times this rule can be ignored, but most of the time pay attention to it.

Find symmetry

3D render of a tree against a sunset sky

Symmetry is found everywhere, and most man-made bodies are also the same. Cars, airplanes, boats, ships, homes, buildings and many of the products we use every day have a consistency. Why? Because the human brain is so closely linked with symmetry, that we closely associate it with beauty.

Front view of a generic and brandless modern car on a black background. 3D illustration

Make the background simple

There will be countless times where you want to isolate your subject and get rid of the background, especially if it is noisy, distracting from the subject.

The most common technique is to blur the background as shown in the image below:

If you like blurry background, you can visit our article about aperture and its relationship to depth of field, where you will find the right way to photograph your subject with a blurry background. Let’s now go back to creating the picture.

Blurring is not the only way to isolate your subject and make the background simple, consider things like a clear sky, a gray day, or maybe a repeating pattern like a brick wall, an open space, and more.

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One point of interest

This technique is one of the simplest forms of composition in photography, one element can add interest to a boring image, usually this element is small, or contrasting with the rest of the image, you can choose to place it in the center, or on the side of the frame as in the image below.

If you follow the rule of thirds when framing your point, the image will be more dynamic. As in the picture above, where the bird was placed at one of the intersection points.

Stork flying in the sky

The depth

Since photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to carefully choose a composition to convey the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in the image by including objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background, as shown in this image, with rocks in the foreground, the sea in the center and the sun in the background:

Lens 17.0mm, Aperture ƒ / 8.0, Shutter speed 1s, ISO 500

Another useful technique in composition is interference, in which you partially mask one element by another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them, creating an image of greater depth.

A lot of different clothes hanging in a wardrobe

Leave blank space about your topic

Leave blank space around your subject, let the viewer’s eye focus on the subject only.

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Balancing the elements of the picture
When you have a strong topic in the foreground, it helps to have a smaller theme in the background to balance out the foreground element. As shown in this photo, the Paris Tower is used in the background, to balance the newlyweds in the foreground.

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When you balance the elements in an image, you create a viewer’s interest.

This might seem to contradict my previous composition photography advice on leaving blank space around your subject, but that’s the advantage of knowing several rules of composition. Try several of them, to choose the one that suits your scene.

It is up to you, as the photographer, to judge which mounting base will work best with your image.

  • Triangles

Since the triangles create dynamic tension within the image, they make composition interesting. We are accustomed to stabilizing vertical and horizontal lines. The diagonal lines of the triangles resemble a large arrow leading the eye.

Of course that doesn’t mean you have to run around for 3D objects to shoot to apply this photography composition advice. Triangles can also be embedded by choosing the right angle for shooting.

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Breaking the rules of composing the image

Composition rules or techniques are only guidelines and starting points, sometimes you may want to break out of the traditional mold, and try something different, in which case you can simply break the rules.

Don’t let composition rules make you feel trapped in a box that you just can’t get out of. Because the photographer, or the artist in general, means having the freedom to create whatever he wants. So get creative, and push yourself to create new things.