How The Rule of Thirds Can Improve Your Photos


The rule of thirds is an aesthetic principle in photography to keep in mind when shooting a photo. Today, I’m going to teach you how to correctly apply the rule of thirds to your photos, so you can create well-balanced compositions that will look and feel right to the viewer.

What is The Rule of Thirds?

Every great photo has its main subject or subjects. Those are the parts of the image that the human eye is naturally attracted to, or the things that we naturally notice before everything else when we’re looking at the picture. In this photo I took last week of a container of milk with peaches and eggs, what do you think are the most important subjects?

Simple Farm Milk and Peaches photoThe milk is the main subject, but as we continue to look at this photo, we notice the peaches sitting in front of and beside the milk (secondary subjects) and we can also see that there are eggs in the background.

The rule of thirds states that the most important subjects of the photo should be placed along the gridlines and at the intersections of these lines (called junction points). In the photo above, I’ve placed the milk along the left vertical gridline. The peaches to the right of the milk are placed near the right bottom junction point and some eggs hit at the top right junction point.

My example above isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close and therefore appealing to the eye…which is what you want!

Note: This is a principle, a guideline to follow. It’s about composition and what’s appealing to the eye. Sometimes people just want to break the rules and that’s totally fine. Wink

Balance is important too.

When applying the rule of thirds, it’s also important to pay attention to the horizontal and vertical balance of the photo. In general, you want a composition that is not heavily biased towards one of the four sides of the image. Here’s a good example of visual balance:

Tablescape photo
The main subject of this photo might be considered the full pink donut on the upper right hand side (junction point). But if it was the only subject in the photo, the visual weight would be focused on the right side. This photo actually has visual balance, with items on the left and right side, as well as the top and bottom, so all are equally powerful…and it’s achieved good visual balance!

People and the rule of thirds.

If you have a photo with a person or people in it, where should you focus? Our eyes will tend to follow the eyes first, followed by the face and then the rest of the body. It’s like real life – you tend to look at a person’s eyes.

Person photo and the rule of thirdsIn the rule of thirds, the photo above has the subject visually balanced – she’s in the center. And she is again in the center in this bottom image. But the main subject changed, there’s no eyes, so we naturally zero in on the ice cream in front of the face, followed by the body!

Person without eyes photo and the rule of thirdsAs I stated earlier, the rule of thirds is a guide – there are no set rules! But as you can see from the images shown above, applying the rule of thirds can improve your photos greatly.

Note: People don’t always know why they are attracted to certain photos, just that they are. And as you have seen with many photos on Pinterest and on Instagram, you know which ones are good and which ones simply aren’t. We typically don’t like or follow photo’s that don’t appeal to us!

So keep the rule of thirds in mind so you can improve your photos, and ultimately improve your following and/or sales.


Side note: I know some of you are going to ask how to enable the camera grid lines (as seen in the images above) on your iPhone or iPad.  Here you go:

1. Launch the Settings app from the Home screen of your iPhone or iPad.
2. Scroll down and tap on Photos & Camera.
3. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and under the Camera section, there is an option for Grid. Turn the feature On by tapping on the slider (and you will see the color green).
4. Your camera grid is enabled!


Photo Sources: Simple Farm Milk via @yourmarketingbff, Donuts via @ivansocal, Gal via @stephsterjovski

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  1. Great article Tana! Thanks for the reminders with visual examples. I have the grid and use it to align subjects, but enjoyed reading your additional tips for creating more appealing photos. Thank you!

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