Don’t Always be the Center of Attention

by Earl J Posted on December 20, 2009

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You may have heard of the “Rule of Thirds” or maybe not. Applying that rule can often turn your good photos into great photos. I’ve included examples to show you the differences.

But first, what is the Rule of Thirds?

Some of our cameras have the option of applying a Grid to the LCD screen and if yours does that, apply it and take a look at the LCD. It shows lines that separate the image into nine equal parts. You can imagine there’s a grid there if you don’t have it as an option with your camera.

Most of the time, putting what you want to emphasize at a point where the lines intersect will make for a much improved shot. (Placing the subject in the dead center is often boring.) I’ve included some examples to show you this.

The first four photos were taken by me this past June, in Park Lazienkowski, Warsaw, Poland. It is a very large, beautiful and well-manicured public park in that city.

My first photo is of a statue in the park, taken without thinking about the rule of thirds. It’s fine, as far as it goes.

I like this second shot of the statue better, because it shows the setting that the statue is in. Taking note of the rule of thirds here results, I feel, in a much more effective coverage of the subject statue and its surroundings.

My third photo is of a lake in the same park, with a group of people enjoying a boat ride. There’s nothing really wrong here, but you can see that both the water line and the position of the boat is dead center, and I feel it’s kind of boring.

By applying the rule of thirds as I did in the fourth photo, I feel I have added much more life to a similar scene.

Of course, all such “rules” are made to be ignored sometimes.

I feel my fifth photo shows us that centering the subject sometimes can result in a powerful (and not boring) photograph.

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  1. Joey Says:

    Great article Earl! I don’t think I have the grid on my camera but wow what a difference your examples make by showing more of the surroundings. Just beautiful pictures. I try to not center all my photos, sometimes I feel like I’d be cutting off the main subject. I do like this idea and will keep it in mind over Christmas. Your last image is indeed very powerful.

    Thanks for these useful tips!

  2. MamaNellie Says:

    Since most the time we are shooting pictures of our daughter, any moment I can capture I go for it without thinking but I will keep this tip in mind! What great examples you’ve shown here, thanks!

  3. AnnAbbott Says:

    The rule of thirds makes you also work with the rule of balance. Just as you said, the subject a bit off center makes for a more interesting photo. Un-even number of subjects is also another way to avoid the typical picture. Thanks Earl! Great examples given!

more about Earl J

I'm a long-time film photographer, starting with a darkroom in my parents' fruit-cellar when a teen-ager. I fought the change to digital at first, but no longer. I've become a convert and Shutterfly has been my on-line provider since 2002. Since then I've placed (as I write this) 135 orders for prints, enlargements, calendars for every year and 42 photo books in different sizes. I'm very pleased with the top quality of all Shutterfly products.

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