What’s the rule of thirds in images?

Rule of thirds with a lady bug

The rule of thirds might be the best-known compositional rule in images. At a guess, it’s the primary compositional rule freshmen be taught. It’s easy to make use of, however that doesn’t cease it being efficient. On this explainer, we’ll be what the rule of thirds truly is, why it really works, how you should utilize it, and when it’s truly a good suggestion to interrupt the rule.

What’s the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is a compositional method the place you divide your body equally into thirds, each horizontally and vertically. This ends in 4 grid strains–two horizontal and two vertical–and 9 equally sized rectangles superimposed over your body. Though, if you happen to’re utilizing a sq. crop, the body will likely be divided into squares, not rectangles. Extra on that later.

The 4 factors the place the grid strains intersect are often called factors of curiosity, or energy factors.

Rule of third grids, with the lines in red and the points of interest in blue.
The rule of thirds grid, with the factors of curiosity marked in blue

You utilize the grid strains and the factors of curiosity that will help you place your topics or anything that’s vital, for instance a horizon line, within the body.

Why is the rule of thirds helpful?

The strains and the factors of curiosity assist you to to compose a picture that’s each balanced and dynamic. Collectively, these components create a powerful composition that holds your viewer’s eye.

A bumble bee resting on a pale purple phacelia flower. The background is out-of-focus green and purple. The bumble bee is sitting on the lower left point of interest according to the rule of thirds.
A bumblebee resting on a phacelia flower on the decrease left focal point.


By having your topic or topics located in a single third of the body, you’ll be able to steadiness the stress within the different two thirds of the body. You may do that with detrimental house or with a bigger or smaller factor that may very well be in or out of focus, however which contrasts with the topic. Nonetheless you do it, it’s pleasing to the attention.


Whenever you place your topic smack-bang within the centre of the body, it could really feel static and boring. The attention goes on to the topic and stays there, with nothing to attract it by the body and inform the story of the picture. Whenever you use the factors of curiosity and the grid strains, you might be encouraging your viewer to interact along with your picture and discover it. The rule of thirds makes your compositions extra compelling and welcoming.

How do I take advantage of the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds grid is a reasonably simple sample to think about positioned over your scene. Nonetheless, loads of cameras now include a grid overlay that you could show in your viewfinder to take the guesswork out of your composition. When the grid is at all times over your scene, you’re by no means distant from a strongly composed picture.

Placement grid

Align any robust horizontals or verticals in your scene with the grid strains created by the rule of thirds. Suppose: the horizon or shorelines, individuals, and bushes. It doesn’t have to be actual, however shut sufficient. In case you discover that you want to transfer a bit of to enhance your placement, then go forward.

A sail boat on a turquoise sea with green hills in the background. The shoreline in the lower line of the rule of thirds grid and the boat on a power point.
A sail boat on turquoise waters. The shoreline is on the decrease grid line based on the rule of thirds.

Factors of curiosity

If there’s one thing of explicit curiosity or a pure focus in your scene, attempt to place it onto one of many factors of curiosity. This may very well be a barn in a valley, a bee on a flower, or the attention of a human or animal topic. People are at all times drawn in the direction of eyes, so a watch on a focal point makes for a really robust composition.

A star-shaped lamp set into a wall, pictured reflected in a mirror on an opposite wall.
The star lamp is positioned based on the rule of thirds. Observe that the plain strains within the picture aren’t.

Panorama images and the rule of thirds

Utilizing the rule of thirds to place your horizon in a panorama {photograph} might be one of the vital apparent makes use of for the rule of thirds. However it’s additionally extremely efficient. In case you lower your scene in half with the skyline, it could look very flat. The grid strains aren’t only for horizons, although. You should utilize them for shorelines–and a shoreline on the decrease line with the horizon on the higher line is admittedly efficient–tree strains, metropolis skylines, something that’s working by your body.

A wooded creek with four sailing boats moored in the lower right.
The shoreline is on the decrease grid line; the horizon is increased.

The vertical strains are good for positioning bushes, lighthouses, rocky outcrops, or another kind of upright function in your scene.

In case you can, you wish to place options–for instance seashore huts, lone hikers, paddle-boarders, boats, or one of many factors of curiosity, too.


Whenever you {photograph} individuals, take into consideration positioning them on one of many verticals with the pinnacle or the attention on a focal point.

Wildlife images and the rule of thirds

Whenever you’re photographing wildlife, or your pets, purpose to put a watch on a focal point to take care of your viewers’s focus.

A red-collared lorikeet facing the left on a dark foliage background.
A red-collared lorikeet. Observe the position of the pinnacle.

Flower images

Place the stem alongside a grid line and place the flower itself on a focal point for a dynamic, balanced picture.

A multi-pink and white sweetpea on a blurred foliage background. The stem follows a rule of third grid line and the flower is on a point of interest.
The stem of the sweetpea is following the proper grid line of the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds within the modifying suite

You’ll be able to’t get each shot good in digital camera. If you want to neaten up your rule of thirds within the modifying suite, you’ll find that the majority of them have a rule of thirds overlay button. Choose it, after which you possibly can crop based on the grid strains and factors of curiosity.

Breaking the rule of thirds

Guidelines are made to be damaged, however the important thing to breaking them is realizing them first. The rule of thirds isn’t at all times the proper selection to your composition. You may discover that to stress the symmetry of your topic, a central topic placement is finest. A extra excessive topic placement, for instance deep right into a nook, may very well be precisely what you want to inform your story. And if you happen to’re utilizing a sq. crop, the rule of thirds is usually a bit hit-and-miss in my expertise. Typically, it simply doesn’t go away sufficient to room to your topic to breathe. There’s nothing incorrect with attempting one thing and discovering that it doesn’t work, so following an alternate. And that goes for sticking or twisting with the rule of thirds.

It’s additionally price remembering that the rule of thirds doesn’t have to be utilized exactly everytime you use it. You should utilize it as a compositional guideline. The horizontal strains in your body shouldn’t have to take a seat exactly on the gridlines. The important thing components of your composition don’t must be completely positioned on a focal point. It’s there to behave as an support.

Wrapping up

The rule of thirds is a straightforward and efficient option to create a way of steadiness in your images and keep visible curiosity to your viewers. The extra that you just practise utilizing it, the extra that will probably be automated to compose your body based on its rules. And certainly, the extra that you just use it, the extra that you’ll admire when it doesn’t fairly do what you want it to.


What’s the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is a compositional rule that divides your body right into a three-by-three grid of 9 equally sized rectangles. You utilize the strains to place upright or horizontal options within the body, and key topics on the 4 intersecting factors. These are name factors of curiosity, or energy factors.

What’s the objective of the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds helps to create compelling and fascinating compositions. In case you use the strains and factors of curiosity to place your key options and focal factors, the composition can have steadiness and be dynamic.

Do I’ve to make use of the rule of thirds?

In no way! However it’s a good suggestion to know the way it works in order that it if you wish to break it, you doing so with objective.

What alternate options are there to the rule of thirds?

If in case you have a symmetrical topic, central placement could be highly effective. Placing your focus right into a far nook could make for a really placing composition. And typically positioning strains diagonally throughout your body is way simpler than utilizing the rule of thirds.

Does the rule of thirds work for portraits?

It might do! Simply take into consideration the place you place your topic based on the grid strains, and the place you place their head or eyes utilizing the factors of curiosity.