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Beyond The Rule Of Thirds

Posted by: Bradford Martin on 05/21/2013 - 9:15 PM

I first want to say I have no formal training in the arts. When I started doing photography I read as much as I could. In fact I read and understood a few books before I got my first camera. I could understand the technical rules but I wanted to learn, more about this rule of thirds. So I visited a lot art museums, figuring painters have a lot more control of composition then, say, a bird photographer. Not a lot of rule of thirds going on there. I went to a camera club meeting and there was a guy who was supposed to be a famous landscape photographer. And he said there are a lot more ways to compose then just the rule of thirds. There are even names for other ways of composing. Mostly I do what looks right like to me, even if that means a dead center composition. Show me some alternate compositions. or where the Golden ratio is there but not as obvious.
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The pelican earned me an award in a juried art show, with a nice cash prize and sold very well as a large print for many years, although not on FAA
The other has sold in the past week on another site.


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Posted by: JC Findley on 05/21/2013 - 9:37 PM

Bradford, I believe that if you have a naturally artistic "eye" you will produce wonderful compositions regardless if you know the rules. Your examples above are outstanding though they may well follow some rule or another, I just don't know them all that well.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 05/21/2013 - 9:39 PM

i never follow rules, if they happen to be they happen to be. it's hard site an example since i don't know what i would be citing.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: JC Findley on 05/21/2013 - 9:41 PM

Oh, here is my best rule of thirds example, but it took me forever to find more than just two of these chairs so I could use the rule of thirds....

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Posted by: Mike Savad on 05/21/2013 - 9:41 PM

but i'll try anyway.

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---Mike Savad


Posted by: Steven Ralser on 05/21/2013 - 9:47 PM

Okay I'll bite too. Here are some recent photos; I know flowers, but what the heck. Two sort on not rule of thirds, the third is sort of.
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Posted by: Jani Freimann on 05/21/2013 - 9:50 PM

I looked it up because I never used this rule on purpose before. Turns out that I've been doing it without realizing it. Go figure.

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Posted by: Bradford Martin on 05/21/2013 - 10:08 PM

JC. Nice photo but this was about not using the rule of thirds. What I also see in the benches photo is a strong diagonal line. I think there is a name for that too. Maybe it's the rule of strong diagonal lines. ;-) But I am always attracted to them and will compose accordingly.
Jani. Yep your a natural.


Posted by: JC Findley on 05/21/2013 - 10:09 PM

but but but Bradord, it was tongue in cheek, get it, three chairs, rule of "thirds".......

I crack me up


Posted by: Ed Meredith on 05/21/2013 - 10:23 PM

Bradford, keep doing what feels right and it will work... rule of thirds is just part of it, sometimes it's about weight, rhythm, balance and unity...
composition is an intuitive act… it's how we work our judgment, make associations, and determine how to direct the observer’s eye... it's a visual dance.

One third is not king, if it works, even if it's quirky and breaks the rules, it still works and that's what counts…

Here are three center compositions that use some of those elements
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and this one i think, uses balance and weight of light and dark:
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Posted by: Crystal Wightman on 05/21/2013 - 10:30 PM

I naturally shoot what I think looks good. Don't really think about rule of thirds. I remember, years ago, when I seriously decided to learn my photography craft, I heard about rule of thirds and was like hmmm do I shoot that way? Sure enough, I do. lol So here are some that could come close to not fit the rule. :)

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Posted by: Mary Bedy on 05/21/2013 - 10:41 PM

Rule of Thirds:

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Basically symmetrical (except for the tree):

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Posted by: Kerri Mortenson on 05/21/2013 - 11:22 PM

I shoot what I like, not because of some rule. If it doesn't please me, then forget it. This one is not rule of thirds, but has some great symmetry and was taken just because I liked the cloud formation and all that was happening around it.

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Posted by: Julie Ford on 05/22/2013 - 2:48 AM

I don't use the "rule of thirds" at all.

When I paint, I often make a rough circle at dead center, and *try* to avoid putting my strongest contrasts there. But when I take photos, I compose the shot to look the way I think it should. If that puts my COI square in the bullseye, so be it.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 05/22/2013 - 5:30 AM

JC has three chairs - here's three flowers - I wasn't sure how to divide them into thirds

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Posted by: David Bowman on 05/22/2013 - 5:36 AM

Not a rule follower - just follow what looks compositionally pleasing to me at the time...
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Posted by: A Souppes on 05/22/2013 - 5:44 AM

OP is talking about that there are more to photography than rule of thirds like using converging line, framing, diagonal lines, geometric shapes positioning etc.


Posted by: A Souppes on 05/22/2013 - 6:19 AM

For example, diagonal lines:
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This is one example of framing tree branch on the left and top of the picture frames the main object - bridge
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Converging lines:
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Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 05/22/2013 - 6:40 AM

There are more rules besides rule of thirds. Like, placing you subject on the center of the image you create more impact, presence, intimacy or attention. It is very well used in photo-journalism.

One point perspective works very well wherever you place it as far as you create a cross in the image.

In fact. The main rule is balance. If you have something on one place and something else to compensate on the opposite place it will be harmonious. Bad composition is when you feel the image is missing something or the attention towards a direction annoys. You don't need rule for it you just have to feel and practice this feeling.

When you study arts you actually learn that there is no rule but only your feelings and expression which you have to practice.

Rules are created to please buyers or to give/drive artists without formal or previous practice orientation to practice the activity as soon as they wish.

For example, while there are photographers who will be very negative with photos that doesn't have a perfect texture on all image, I read today in a pinhole photo forum someone saying that real photographers doesn't have accurate photometering image, because he for many people real art is the unforeseeable result. Like Picasso used to say, "if I know what would be the final result of my works it would not be fun nor worth doing".

So, it is up to you if you want follow given rules or your feelings that you practice and develop while studying your own works masters works.


Posted by: Dwayne Oakes on 05/22/2013 - 7:19 AM

I am a rule of thirds disciple, just love that rule, good enough for the painters in the 1700's where it came to be, good enough for me.
But sometimes you just have to break the rules.

1/3 rule

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rule breaker

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Posted by: A Souppes on 05/22/2013 - 7:33 AM

rules are there to be broken but you need to know them to break, also there is no perfect composition to achieve 'cause art is subjective, there are poorly and well composed photos but never perfect though.


Posted by: A Souppes on 05/22/2013 - 7:47 AM

@ Dwayne Oakes good use of the negative space in the last composition "The Updraft"


Posted by: Jim Sauchyn on 05/22/2013 - 8:10 AM

Two formats of the same scene. I wanted to emphasize the prairie sky.

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Posted by: Theresa Tahara on 05/22/2013 - 8:15 AM

I didn't know about the rule of thirds until I had been on here about a year. I also find it impossible to crop some of my images to fit the limited time offer sizes because, to me, it doesn't "look right". Here are two where the subject is right in the middle.
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Posted by: A Souppes on 05/22/2013 - 8:39 AM

@ Theresa great images, centering gives your photos balance.


Posted by: Marc Orphanos on 05/22/2013 - 9:02 AM

I don't deliberately follow the rule but I try to make my images feel balanced.
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Posted by: Roy Erickson on 05/22/2013 - 9:06 AM

Jim - IF, and I'm not, I were purchasing a horse picture - I'll take the one with the big sky - the horizontal one just doesn't "appear" as balanced.


Posted by: Richard Rizzo on 05/22/2013 - 9:53 AM

Balance is not always found in thirds.


Posted by: Crystal Wightman on 05/22/2013 - 9:54 AM


Posted by: Phyllis Wolf on 05/22/2013 - 11:01 AM

I don't have any rules in mind when I take photos, although as a painter I look at things with a painters eye and think of the overall composition but I don't contemplate it with conscious thought of any rules.

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Posted by: Chuck Staley on 05/22/2013 - 11:10 AM

Theresa, your Flower Girl cries out to me for re-positioning. Something like this:

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I would add more dark space above and to the left. But I love the photo.


Posted by: Mary Bedy on 05/22/2013 - 11:14 AM

I like all the images here - some of which follow rules and some of which don't. The nice thing about at least "knowing the rules" is you can sometimes figure out what's wrong with an image when it bothers you, when otherwise you would just be starting at it and not be able to put a finger on what's bugging you.


Posted by: Chuck Staley on 05/22/2013 - 11:17 AM

I worked as a cameraman in live TV for years and every angle and shot counted, so you were always jockeying your pedestal around to get the best shot. Recently, while at my dentist, we were standing and chatting at the reception desk and I noticed that, without realizing it, I was repositioning my body so that his head was framed properly between two painting on the wall behind him. Guess that stuff sticks with you.


Posted by: Loree Johnson on 05/22/2013 - 11:31 AM

For those of you (like me) who don't have a natural propensity for composition, there is a great book called "The Photographer's Eye" that explains the many elements of composition way, way beyond the "rule of thirds." Rule of thirds, by the way, is an oversimplification of the golden ratio, or golden mean, which is not exactly 1/3. I can't remember the author of the book, and I can't find it right now because my adult daughter "borrowed" it and never returned it. :-)


Posted by: Tony Murray on 05/22/2013 - 12:03 PM

It's a biological / geometric reasoning function more than anything else. We are basically symmetrical in our physical bodies, two eyes etc. But the governing brain only constructs a single image. We don't see two images. Even when we cross our eyes the mind is only seeing one image. So when an image is created the rule is for the eye to "Scan" rather than focus. This is particularly true with the female of our species. Watch a love scene in a movie between a man and woman and notice how when they are looking at each other the woman's eyes are moving rapidly side to side. This is like a scanner and the brain is trying to absorb more info than what is initially there. The rule of thirds is not a rule but a guide and only if you want the image to be greater than the sum of it's parts.

It's not so much the image itself but how it is perceived.

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Posted by: Jenny Rainbow on 05/22/2013 - 12:17 PM

Dont follow the rules, just my intuition metters...

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Posted by: Theresa Tahara on 05/22/2013 - 12:45 PM

@ Chuck, if I have time, I'll try it. If I remember correctly, there were a lot of other distractions and people in the original photo. The picture was taken in the change room of a fashion show. On another note, I can't go to a movie now without noticing composition etc. especially the new "Anna Karenina". Amazing.


Posted by: Mary Bedy on 05/22/2013 - 12:49 PM

@ Loree - that book was written by Michael Freeman. I have it next to me and I'm part way through it. It is, indeed, an excellent book in my opinion.


Posted by: Kathi Shotwell on 05/22/2013 - 1:19 PM

Intuition or conscious planning, the eye will be drawn to certain qualities of a composition more than others. Line, reflection, repetition, color, contrast, human face/figure, negative or empty space, all attract the eye and balance together for a pleasing composition. My first photography teacher was a painter, and he taught us the elements and then let us find the balance and notice how the eye moves around a composition or stops at one point. The images that you can't stop looking at, the ones that hold your interest, are the ones where your eye keeps moving around.
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Posted by: Bradford Martin on 05/22/2013 - 1:51 PM


Posted by: Dwayne Oakes on 05/25/2013 - 9:26 PM

Thank you very much

A Souppes !


Posted by: Alexander Senin on 07/07/2013 - 9:30 AM


Posted by: David Crowell on 07/07/2013 - 10:51 AM

I look at the Rule of Thirds, and other "rules" about art as guidelines for how to produce appealing art. They don't always work, and sometimes great work can produced by breaking them, but most often a work that follows them will be successful.

Most of us develop an eye for what looks good and do not need to consciously attempt to follow the rules. I tend to bring them into conscious awareness when something isn't working in a piece. It gives me a starting point for how to fix it.


Posted by: Gregory Scott on 07/07/2013 - 11:30 AM

Rules are to help, not to hinder. I tend to be a radical on the subject of composition, particularly on the topic of panoramic photos:
If I see a beautiful scene, and decide to capture as much of the beauty as I can with a panoramic view, I maintain that the composition of the full panorama is a nice plus, but if it's beautiful, it doesn't have to follow rules. In particular, a beautiful panorama contains many mini-compositions, and part of the enjoyment is searching out those details in a larger overall images. An image does not have to be a "formal garden" of composition, that guides you through each element in an orderly way. My analogy would be that it can be a wilderness of detail to explore and appreciate, and the if, like Ragu, it's "in there" (to painfully mix metaphors) that's just fine! If I see beauty, and record it well, then the rules aren't absolutely necessary for it to have falue for myself or others.


Posted by: Karyn Robinson on 07/07/2013 - 2:04 PM


Posted by: Gunter Nezhoda on 07/07/2013 - 2:11 PM


" I believe that if you have a naturally artistic "eye" you will produce wonderful compositions regardless if you know the rules"

Best answer to this ever .................


This discussion is closed.