Let’s face it, photography is more accessible than ever. With each latest installation of new smartphones, everyone has the power of photography at their fingertips. Now, it’s easier than ever to point, shoot and capture life’s greatest moments.

Whether you are an aspiring professional, or someone just looking to spice up their Instagram, there are many ways to make your pictures stand out. Sure, you can edit photos once they are taken for minor adjustments. However, the best pictures are created from the moment they are taken.

As one of the first things photographers learn in school, the photography rule of thirds is a vital principle. What is the rule of thirds in photography? Simply put, it’s a composition technique that breaks an image into nine separate parts.

Let’s take a look at just how you use this technique.

Using the photography rule of thirds

As you look through the viewfinder in your camera, or on the screen of your phone, imagine a grid across the screen. In the three-by-three-grid, there are nine equally-sized rectangles with four points of intersection.

The photography rule of thirds identifies the most important parts of your image, the ones that the eye will naturally be drawn to. In theory, you should place points of interest at these intersection points.

In the photo of the dog above, the photographer has positioned the dog’s face at one of these points, creating an even, balanced image that allows the viewer to naturally interact with it.

More often than not, people’s eyes do not tend to stray towards the center of the image. This is why points of intersection in the photography rule of thirds are so important. Viewers’ eyes are naturally drawn to any of the four intersection points. 

Now, you’ve got your camera and you’re ready to go shoot some compelling photographs.

Tips for the photography rule of thirds

Before you jump in, here are some easy ways to take note of some of these quick tips:

Change your camera settings

Often, smartphones and digital cameras are able to project the photography rule of thirds grid on the viewfinder.

To change this, it’s just as simple as finding the settings for your camera or smartphone, checking off a box and low-and-behold, you have your grid.

Here’s how to do it on an iPhone, as an example.

Identify points of interest

Before you snap your photo, it’s important to identify what aspects of the photo you want the viewer to notice. Perhaps you are taking a photograph of a beautiful bird. If you want the bird to be the main point of interest, line up the intersection points with the subject.

Often, photographs may have several points of interest. Frame your photograph to include all the elements you want the viewer to see using the photography rule of thirds.

Some rules are meant to be broken

The rule of thirds is an essential technique to take great photographs. However, not every photograph you take has to adhere to the technique. There are plenty of ways to take great photographs, from the camera you use down to the time of day you shoot.

If you want to learn more about ways to apply this technique, and other handy photography tricks, check out our recommended online photography courses.