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Photography Composition Tips – Part 1

Photography is not just about holding your camera up to a great scene and snapping away.  You need to think about what you’re looking at and compose a keeper IE: something you and other will actually enjoy looking at later.  Today’s photography tutorial  is the start of a series about composition in photography.  Through these various composition tips throughout the series, it’s my hope (and wager) you will not only be able to take better photos or “keepers”, but you will also learn to enjoy taking pictures as your shots come to life! Let’s start with the most taught and talked about style.

The Rule of Thirds

This is perhaps the most commonly used “rule” that photographers learn and use.  Just because it is a “rule” doesn’t mean that if you don’t use it you’re doomed to have boring, lifeless pictures.  That being said, most rules are put in place for a good reason so you should know why a rule is important before you decide to break it.

The basic idea of the composition style for the rule of thirds is to break your image into nine equal parts using imaginary lines to divide both the shot into three equal horizontal and vertical parts.  The diagram below explains it much better than words.
Photography Rule of thirds grid layout
You now have 8 elements to work with, four lines and four intersections. The idea is to place your main subject one a line or intersection. This tends to make your pictures more dynamic and less snapshot looking. There has been research done to indicate that taking pictures using this process actually makes it easier for your brain to process the image and possibly more pleasing to the human eye.

Related Article:  How To Use Photoshop and Lightroom for Lens Corrections

Photography Rule of thirds grid layout flower picture
In this shot, the flower has been placed at an intersection and has become a focus of the photograph.

Below is another example of this.  Notice how I placed the squirrel in the same spot as the flower above.

Photography Rule of thirds grid layout squirrel picture

The rule of thirds compositional style doesn’t just apply to having a main subject either.  Remember you also have the lines of the grid to work with when composing your shot. Below is an example of using the lines of the grid layout to improve a landscape by following the rule of thirds.  Of the two shots, which do you prefer?

Photography Rule of thirds picture of grass and mountainsPhotography Rule of thirds picture of grass and mountains

Keep this rule in your back pocket during your post-production work as your can crop your images to apply this rule after the fact to improve the look and feel your pictures.  That being said, now that you understand the rule, don’t be afraid to break it.  It’s not the only rule after all.  Enjoy!


About the Author:
Although the usual hangout for sharing his photography is, you will also find brickmonkey as an occasional groovyContributor here @ for photography tips and tricks.

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3 Responses to Photography Composition Tips – Part 1

  1. wpolscemamymocneseo January 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me get further ahead

    • MrGroove January 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

      Did this one help?

    • brickmonkey January 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

      Thanks. I hope this helps you to take better pictures. Let us know if you have any more questions.


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