Photo Tip Monday - Composition - Rule of Thirds - Ld
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Photo Tip Monday - Composition - Rule of Thirds

Today I am starting a new series of photography tips and tutorials. Last week we finished up our ‘5 tips to setting up a great nature photograph’ series, which went through general tips and tricks for, well, setting up a great nature shot (I’m really crafty with titles, aren’t I?). The next series I want to introduce will explore different photography terminology that I think is important to know and understand. Some examples are exposure, white balance, shutter speed, depth of field, and today’s topic, composition.

As I mentioned above, today’s topic will cover photography composition; specifically focusing on the RULE OF THIRDS. This composition post will be split up into two parts: the first today, will focus solely on the rule of thirds. The second part lists 10 rules of photography composition you need to know. See that post here

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) and examine the definition of composition.

Composition: the act of combining parts or elements to form a whole and/or manner of being composed; structure.

If you apply that to photography, it simply means the structure of a photograph, or using different parts to create a whole picture.

So, how does that apply to the rule of thirds?

First, let’s look at what the rule of thirds is. Remember that picture I showed you of the grid you can use on your camera screen in this blog post? No? Ok, here is it again.

See how the grid is divided up into nine equal parts? That is the basis on the rule of thirds, which states that every photograph can be divided up into nine equal parts. Within those nine parts, photographic subjects and/or objects should be placed along those lines as well as at the intersections. Almost all cameras have this grid which you can use to not only make sure your horizon is straight but also to set up your photograph (composition).

The above picture of the silo in the snow is an example. The silo follows the left hand line and the tree follows the right. 

It can be argued that by using the rule of thirds, you will end up with a more striking picture than one that doesn't use the rule. Why is that? The human eye will naturally search for intersecting points when you divide an image into three parts (source). If you have placed your subject/object at those lines or intersecting points, it is argued that this results in a more striking picture than one that doesn't.

Let me show you some more examples.

I tend to favor the left hand side of a photograph (meaning: lining my subjects/objects up with the left line).

Here is an example of a picture using the horizontal lines. The first line starts right as the green vegetation does, and the second line starts where the green vegetation ends and the yellow foliage starts. :

In the holiday picture below, the bridge in the background matches up with the lower left hand corner intersection.

If you take a picture, get it home and realize it isn’t quite what you were looking for in relation to the rule of thirds, you CAN crop the picture in a photo editing software. However, as I’ve said before, I believe you shouldn’t rely on editing your photos afterwards. Plus, cropping a photo too much can alter the quality of the image.

Of course, like all rules, they are meant to be broken so I don’t want you to think you have to do this every time you take a picture. It is a rule to be taken into consideration; more as a guideline. Take this picture I took last weekend for example:

I have the bird completely in the middle of the picture with no object or subject along any of the grid lines or the intersection points. I think it still works, don’t you? The important thing is to understand what the rule is and apply it as necessary. Practice and play around as you are taking pictures to find what you like!

This week's takeaway:

-Apply the rule of thirds while setting up a photograph

-Use the grid on your camera screen or viewfinder to set your object/subject along the grid lines and/or the intersections

-If you find a picture works better not using the rule of thirds, take it!

-You can crop a photo to set up the rule of thirds in a photo-editing software, but don't plan on doing that from the beginning

Do you use the rule of thirds when taking a picture? What do you like or not like about it? Is the rule of thirds something you think you will implement in your photography?

Check back next week for part two of learning about photography composition.

Happy Photographing!

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