Photography Basics: Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The Rule of Thirds is a useful technique for helping you to improve your photography composition. While it is more of a guide line than a hard and fast rule, its always useful to start looking at a scene based on the Rule of Thirds, you can always move away from it if the composition doesn’t need it. As a general though, a composition based on the Rule of Thirds will lead to a more pleasing shot.

To apply the Rule of Thirds you basically have to split the rectangle of your image into thirds both vertically and horizontally, giving you 4 dividing lines and 9 sections in total as in the image above. Once you’ve divided the image into thirds you should then look to position important aspects of the scene as near as possible to one of your imaginary lines (it doesn’t have to be exactly on it, just near it) For example in a seascape you might place the horizon on the bottom horizontal line, or when shooting a tall building you might line the building up on one of the bisecting lines rather than dead center of the frame.

Rule of Thirds Example

In my example image above you can see I’ve placed one of the towers from the bridge on line between the right hand and middle thirds. Similarly the meeting between the river and the river bank is aligned with the line between the bottom third and the middle third. However it wasn’t possible to line up the Shard with any of the other lines, so in the case of that item I have ignored the rule.


The Rule of Thirds is a useful tool for any photographer, be they shooting landscapes, architecture or portraits. While it should never be followed to the letter all the time, used correctly it can give some very pleasing results. In order to help a photographer make proper use of the Rule of Thirds most digital SLR’s make it possible to display the thirds lines on the LCD screen on the back of the camera, allowing you to compose the image without having to imagine the lines there.

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