The Simplest Photography ‘Rule’ to Improve your Images

Photography can be complex but there are a handful of simple things you can do for immediate improvement.  The ‘rule’ I’ll touch on, today is The Rule of Thirds.  The concept is simple: Slice your composition into vertical and horizontal thirds and place your subject on one of the intersecting points.  Often, the resulting photograph is more pleasing to the eye as it helps the viewer move easily through the image.  I have presented some examples, below.  

 Super Blue Blood Moon - ©John Guillaume

Super Blue Blood Moon - ©John Guillaume

 Rule of Thirds Applied - ©John Guillaume 

Rule of Thirds Applied - ©John Guillaume 

Above:   I took this image, last Wednesday, of the Super Blue Blood Moon as it was setting over Denver, CO.  To the right, I've sliced the image into thirds to better illustrate how the rule of thirds can be applied.  You'll notice the main subject - the moon - sits at the upper, left intersection.  Equally as important, you'll see the horizon line of the lake aligned with the bottom horizontal axis.  I cropped this image to a 1:1, or square aspect ratio because I felt it was a more pleasing composition, largely because of the rule of thirds.  

Below: To the left is the original image a friend of mine took of me skiing last week, in Sun Valley, ID, using his iPhone.  This is probably pretty typical vacation picture where subjects are often centered in the frame.  It makes for a fine memory but not a great picture.  To the right, you'll see a cropped image where I placed the subject (me) at the bottom right intersection, resulting in a far better image.   

 Original iPhone Photo - Un-cropped ©John Guillaume

Original iPhone Photo - Un-cropped ©John Guillaume

 Cropped using the Rule of Thirds - ©John Guillaume

Cropped using the Rule of Thirds - ©John Guillaume

Keep in mind, the rule of thirds is really just a guideline and not a hard and fast rule.  As an example, if your image lends itself to symmetry then centering the main subject can make sense as demonstrated, below.  Even though my main subject is centered, note how the rule of thirds plays into the foreground of the image and the horizon line.   

 Out to Sea - Study 2  - ©John Guillaume 

Out to Sea - Study 2  - ©John Guillaume 

 Rule of Thirds Overlay - ©John Guillaume

Rule of Thirds Overlay - ©John Guillaume

Composition and good light are the two most important elements in photography.  Your gear can matter but most of the time it does not.  Give the rule of thirds a go and see how much it can improve your photos.  

BONUS TIP:   You can enable the rule of thirds grid on your iPhone screen when you take pictures.  Simply go to Settings > Camera > Grid.  It is a great little reminder to help you compose your pictures better. 

Comments and questions are always welcomed. 

Make it a great day! 

JG

www.johnguillaume.com

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