Thursday, April 22, 2010

Photo tip #2: The Rule of Thirds

Okay, some people will hate this. How can you be creative following a bunch of rules you may ask.
Well, I love rules (as long as they suit me) so I can't relate to that, but you better believe that even Da Vinci learned the rules before he threw them out the window and did his own thing.

The rule of thirds relates to the Golden Mean, the magic ratio that turns up again and again in nature and human design. Why? Because it works. Most people think symmetry is where it's at (okay, I believed that for a long time) when in fact the brain and the eye like things that are a little off. Things that move the eye around instead of just letting it plonk on a subject and sit there, doing nothing.

Here's what I mean.

This photo places the subject smack dab in the middle. Very nice job of centering that man and ensuring nearly perfect symmetry with the boats. Problem is, that's boring. Your eye gets stuck on his bum.

Now, here's an image that lets the mind do a little travelling.

This is what you want in a photo, a little trip inside the viewer's mind.
Never mind that the boats are overexposed. That's not relevant to this discussion.

It's very simple. Imagine a grid in your view finder that divides the rectangle into nine equal segments, like the red lines in the photos above.

What you want to do is place the subject at one of the four intersections, or put a horizontal feature (like the horizon) on either the lower third or upper third of the frame.

On some cameras you can impose a grid on your viewfinder. Check through your features and manual to see if you can. After a while you won't need the guide.

And by all means, if the subject is perfectly symmetrical and that's just what you want to show, do it. But try playing with the rule of thirds to see if it makes some photos more dynamic.

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