Rule of thirds.
This is probably the easiest rule to follow to get a pleasing composition. The rule is based on an imaginary grid, where the “view” is divided into thirds……three divisions vertically, and three divisions horizontally.
The imaginary lines then become guides as to where to place the elements within the frame of your photo.
For example, Pic 1 uses the rule of thirds to place the hut at roughly the point where two lines cross.
Pic 2 places the eyes of the cat across one line and the ears and paws along another line.
Pic 3 shows the only element of the photo that’s in focus on the intersection of two lines.
When photographing a portrait, you will almost always get a pleasing composition if at least one element of the facial features is on or close to one of the grid lines or intersections.
In Pic 4, the eyes are on one line, the mouth is on another. The composition is made stronger by the fact that the leading eye is on the intersection of two lines.
This rule can be broken very successfully, but before you break it, you need to learn it and use it in your compositions.
Some tips on using the rule of thirds:
Always have the main element positioned into the frame rather than out of it. Notice in Pic 2 the cat is looking into the frame and in Pic 4, the girl (my daughter) has her head angled towards the right of the frame although she’s looking straight at the camera.
Use the rules of thirds in composing a landscape by placing the horizon on or near one of the lines. If the sky is more interesting, place the horizon lower in the frame; if the land is more picturesque, place the horizon on the top line.
PS. I drew the lines by hand without measuring them so they are not exact but they are good enough to give you an idea of how to use imaginary guidelines in your composition.
The photos used to illustrate this tutorial remain the property of Gayle Knowles and may not be used, published or distributed without the permission of the photographer.