Art is never about rules.
Whether a photographer is taking pictures of a landscape, portrait, wedding, or the nature, they should feel free to take the artistic license to capture the best photo possible. But if you don’t have the basic understanding and knowledge about the principles of photography, your images will be all over the place and not appealing to most viewers.
The truth is that most great photographs share some common characteristics. For the sake of this article, let’s call those characteristics “rules,” and when they’re broken, it can either be disastrous (the millions of bad photographs in the world) or it can elevate the photograph to another level (the much smaller number of excellent photographs in existence). To get into the second group, you have to understand the rules and break them purposefully, with careful and deliberate intention.
Rule of Thirds
If you have taken the time to delve into the world of photography, there is no doubt you must have heard the term “rule of thirds” thrown around. So what exactly is the rule of thirds — and what can it do for your photography?
Simply put, the rule of thirds is using two vertical lines and two horizontal lines to divide your photo up into nine equal squares. Then, when shooting or editing, you align the subject at a point where two lines cross. Here’s a good example (see the images below):
This strategy brings the focus to the main subject of a photo. It’s versatile, too — you can use it in a traditional rectangular image or in the common square photos used on Instagram. Odd cropping of an image (like an untraditional square) makes the visual less pleasing to the human eye, but using the rule of thirds (the grid trick) can help eliminate that problem. Let’s look at a few examples to see some excellent compositions that follow this rule.
How to Start Using the Rule of Thirds
A great way to get started with the rule of thirds is setting a grid on your DSLR. Most have a built-in option that will show the grids on your screen or viewfinder (though not in the photo files).
Overall, using the rule of thirds will help you achieve better composed and visually attractive photos. But rules are meant to be broken — you don’t have to follow it each and every time. Still, learning how to properly use this rule will allow for a good foundation and once mastered, you can learn how to properly break it.
Learning the art of composition, more than anything else, will make a huge difference to your photography. What to leave in and what to take out, what your focal point is and how you frame your image – could be the difference between an ordinary image and an extraordinary picture. The composition isn’t complicated, and the skills are easy to learn. With a few basic rules of thumb, you will soon start taking creative, imaginative and well-composed photos.
Art is infinite, so is there a single golden rule of photography that should never be broken? There is, but it’s simply this:
Don’t break a rule without a reason for doing it.
Maybe you’ll get lucky blindly clicking away, but it’s far wiser to base your approach around the fundamentals and then step away from them intentionally and with an informed eye. Knowing the rules gives you the power to break them in style.