The rule of thirds

May 21, 2016

We don’t all have an eye for photography, but Cymon Brooks* tells us how the simple technique of ‘the rule of thirds’ can take your pics from D to A+ in a flash.



Do you struggle to lay out your photos? Perhaps you’re a point-and-snap kind of person, or you just turn the flash on and hope it solves everything. 

Sadly, it doesn’t. But there is a rule professional photographers use that will automatically give you a fresh perspective in all your photographs. 

Originally, adopted by the great masters, such as Rembrandt and Rubens, in their paintings, the rule of thirds was the system that stems from the idea that the human eye naturally sees intersection points when an image is split into thirds. 


To utilise this in a photo, imagine there are two vertical lines and two horizontal lines spaced evenly, which makes three columns, three rows and nine sections. You will see how this looks in the photo of an old church (see above). 

Putting this into practice is quite simple and it will save you valuable time editing. Some cameras even come equipped with this layout in the settings features, so you can visualise this on the viewfinder until it becomes more natural to you.

When taking a photograph with the rule of thirds in mind, it’s always best to compose the picture on the camera. This is so that you can avoid cropping the image later, retain as much of original shot as possible and avoid reducing its quality. 

The image above is saved as a jpeg file and is 12.7MB. Because I have used the rule of thirds, it will not only make a decent size print, but is less prone to pixilation (looking blocky) on an electronic screen.

Using the rule of thirds will benefit all your photos and you will notice it especially in landscape shots. When you go to take a photo, set the picture so the horizon line (where the sky naturally meets the land) falls on the upper or lower dividing line. 

If you’re photographing landscapes, such as mountains or buildings, the horizon line should fall near the upper third. When you take a photo of the sky (i.e. sunsets, sunrises), the horizon should fall near the lower third. 

The landscape photo on top is an example of the rule of thirds in a photo. I tried my best to compose it with an equal balance of land, sky, water and trees to capture the essence of a peaceful evening on a beautiful beachfront. 

I may not have got it spot on but, with the rule of thirds, it is close. That is the great thing about photography, the more times you get out and practise the rules of composition, the more you will be rewarded with great images!


*A collection of Cymon Brooks’ images has been published in a devotional book, Vision, by Salvo Publishing. Available for $25 p.p. from


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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