Many of you would be aware of the Rule of Thirds concept when applied to photography. “Many of you” clearly doesn’t include me a few short months ago, this “rule” being a recent addition to my photography toolkit. Perhaps I’ve simply had my head up my arse all this time. It happens. Funny, though, how our composition skills can be purely innate, we do things without even realising what it is we’re doing.
The Rule of Thirds is applied by making a 9-square grid out of two equally spaced horizontal and two equally spaced vertical lines over a photo. From here, if you place your photo’s focal point onto of the one of the four intersections or across one (or more) of the entire planes, the photo can be more alluring than if you were to crop it so that the subject is dead-centre or unbalanced (too far toward the edge of the photo). The photos I’ve used here are all square Instagram photos, but the same rule applies no matter what the photo’s dimensions.
In Instagram, it is dead easy to crop your raw photos so that they comply to the Rule of Thirds, as the grid is already there for you. Looking over my photos from the last few years, I noticed that I had applied the rule quite unconsciously without even knowing what the hell was going on with this Rule of Thirds business. Now I’m aware of it, I think my Instagram photos pop a lot more than they used to.
Of course, you can still have a killer photo by breaking the Rule of Thirds. But if you are struggling to get decent composition, work out what the focus of your photo should be and plop it on one of the 4 intersections or planes. KILLING IT.
I conducted a short experiment to see whether my “popular” Instagram photos complied with this rule and whether I had a preference in terms of composition. I took the 45 photos that had the most “likes” and analysed them in line with the Rule of Thirds:
- In terms of preference, I am a Compo-mix-alot, with a marginal hankering for bottom-left focal points.
- 85% conformed to the Rule of Thirds, but 15% didn’t.
For example, the below shots are rule-breakers but if a photo is evocative and tells a story, then they will still work. Composition is important in a photo, but so is lighting, subject matter, lyricism. So don’t be bound by the theory, but be aware of it. It may just get you out of a composition snag.
Do you have a preference for where you put your focal point in a photo?
Do you follow the Rule of thirds or just go with your gut?