The Rule Of Thirds

rule of thirds

Framing your picture using the "rule of thirds"

If you have been anywhere near a photo school or photographers before you have, no doubt, heard about the “Rule of Thirds.” But what is this rule, what does it mean and how do you use it?

When we take photographs of our children we want to capture something very special in the way they look, act or do something. And, when we get out our photographs to show friends and relatives, we want them to see the same thing in the photograph as we do.

The Rule Of Thirds Involves Learning To Frame Our Pictures In A More Visually Pleasing Way

This is why it is important to properly frame our image, and here is where the rule of thirds comes into play. We want to frame our image and place our subject in such a way that when someone takes our photograph and looks at it they immediately see the point of the photograph. This means placing the most important element in the image in such a way that the viewers eyes are naturally drawn to it. And, in photographing children, it is the image of the child we want the viewers eyes drawn to. We have already discussed the tendency of new photographers to place the image in the middle of the frame, and even fill the frame with that image. However, that may not be the best way to accomplish our goal if we also consider photography composition.

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

This picture did not use the "rule of thirds" but rather put the subject right in the middle.

Imagine for a moment that you were to draw four imaginary lines – two vertical and two horizontal – through our viewfinder onto the image we are framing. Like the image you see on the right. This will divide the frame into nine separate boxes with 4 interior corners where the lines intersect.

 Place Your Child In The “Sweet Spots” Of The Frame In Your Camera; You Will Be Delighted With The Results!


These are the “sweet spots” in your picture. They are marked in the graph above with the four red + marks.  If you place your child in any of these intersections you are bound to come up with an interesting photograph. Thumb through a magazine, look through a photography book for photo tips, and you will quickly notice that this is where the subject of the photograph is usually placed. In the picture at the top of this page, if you will imagine placing he rule of thirds “grid” of lines over the top of the picture, you will be able to see that the Josiah’s face in located on the upper right + mark, and his bath toys are located on the lower left + mark. That is why this picture is a very accurate example of the use of the rule of thirds, which is known as the “Golden Rule” of photography.

rule of thirds

After cropping, the above picture now follows the "rule of thirds"

No matter where you look you will see that professional photographers follow this rule at least 75% of the time. And while the rule of thirds is relatively easy to do you may find it counter intuitive. Most amateurs try and place the focal point of their picture in the dead center of the frame.

Trust me here – there are few things in life more boring than looking at a bunch of photographs where the subject of the picture is in the center of the photograph. In the photo to the left, I have cropped the above identical picture to put Josiah’s face in the upper left + of the rule of thirds grid if it was again superimposed. The only real issue with cropping a picture is that it leaves you less pixels to work with for creating an enlargement. However, if you don’t intend to have an enlargement or a print as canvas art made from it, cropping it would not be a problem at all.

There is one other issue with this cropped picture of Josiah, and that is the dark shadows on his face. I make some mistakes in photography too, so you do not have to think that you can’t make any.  The shadows occurred because even though I used fill flash, I didn’t take this picture in the RAW or NEF for you Nikon users.  I did use Adobe Photoshop CS6
to try to correct this, but I really needed the RAW image to make it come out right. That is why I now take all of my pictures in the RAW which gives me a lot more flexibility in processing the really special ones.

While the rule of thirds is important, remember there may be occasions when you want, or need, to break it. For example, assume your subject has a background full of people; strangers really, that would take away from the photograph. In this case you might want to fill the frame completely with just your subject.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
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Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!

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About Betty Muscott

Betty A. Muscott is an experienced child photographer and online entrepreneur for tools to capture great photographs of children by parents and grandparents. Connect with Betty on Google+

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Filed Under: Photography Tips

3 Responses to “The Rule Of Thirds”

  1. Align The Horizon In Photos & Know When To Move The Horizon | Real Kids Photography on June 3rd, 2010 4:34 am

    [...] have been discussing the “Rule of Thirds” as respects framing our photographs, but what if we are photographing our children outdoors [...]

  2. Why Is Composition In Photography Important? | Real Kids Photography on February 17th, 2012 3:27 pm

    [...] in photography.  One of the most useful and important photography composition tips is the “rule of thirds.” To get exactly what we want means we might have to take a lot of photographs using [...]

  3. Tips For Photographing Toddlers With Grandparents | on May 23rd, 2012 4:30 am

    [...] her and the chair to try to get better poses. Little ones can still get into contortions that are difficult to frame, so just keep on re framing and taking more pictures. Also, I find that it’s best not to try [...]

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