The "Rule of Thirds" is a concept found in many intro to photography books and tutorials. The idea is that you imagine a grid that divides your composition vertically and horizontally into thirds. (Although some cameras now overlay a grid.)
Apparently, a strong composition is one in which the important elements are so close to the intersection of the third or third lines as this is a viewer's eyes are naturally drawn. Here is the photo without lines.
Yes, it's a pretty good picture. The skier and the main summit are both in the first vertical third line, each sitting at an intersection with the second horizontal third line. The second mountain peak is nicely located on the second vertical third line near a crossroads. So is it a good photo because it fits in well with the rule of thirds? Let us find out.
The problems with the rule of thirds
All right, the answer is no. The rule of thirds is actually a pretty weak composition policy. It helps you more to avoid bad mistakes than to assist you in creating strong compositions.
A good composition has much more to offer than just arranging the main parts of your image at random points in a grid. Things like contrast, color, lines and faces of people – and especially their eyes – are all right where someone is going to look.
Another big problem is that you can put a third grid on almost every image and find important parts that sit under one of the third lines. Like this picture.
And this picture.
Could you cite the case that the third grid fits them? Sure, but the images could also be cropped in a dozen other ways, and you can still claim that the third-party rule fits. As I said in this section above, the rule of thirds does not just commit you to big mistakes, but big mistakes. Let's look at these mistakes.
What the Rule of Thirds Do
The Best The third rule is that you do not place your subject too close to the edge of the frame, or even worse, cut it off at the edge of the frame, as in this horrible composition below.
It also stops you Place your motive without good reasons too central. Central compositions can work well if you know what you are doing, but are often a bit flat and boring.
As you can see, the third-place rule is much stronger.
If You The third rule is a practical guide, but you should not blindly adhere to it. Let's take a better approach.
A Better Composition Approach
Composition is an incredibly complex subject. There are many subtle things that can guide your eyes. For a true master class, you do not have to look any further than the great painters DaVinci, Van Gogh and Picasso: you certainly do not just use the rule of thirds. This article can not go so close to this depth, but let's take a look at my original composition for the skier photo.
As usual, the third kind of rule somehow fits, but that does not matter. It's a powerful composition.
Here are three things that direct the gaze directly at the skier, Will: the guidelines, the contrast of the motif background and the color. It is also a well-balanced image, with the foreground, mountains and sky having about the same amount of space.
Here are all the main lines in the picture.
They all direct your eyes directly to the focus of the image: Will and the main mountain behind him.
Our eyes are attracted by contrast and bright, saturated colors. Will sits at the intersection between the light foreground and the darker mountains and sky. He is also the only orange thing in another wise monochrome blue scene. It's impossible to look anywhere but at him.
Some of these factors are also included in the picture, which is tailored to the rule of thirds, but what makes this picture so much better is the strong diagonal and the additional space in front of Will
This primary Diagonal adds a big amount to the picture. It not only directs the eye directly to Will, but also splits foreground and background, giving you an idea of how steep the slope was. The space in front of Will increases the speed: He moves into the empty space. This also makes it smaller in the frame and thus underlines the feeling of being in the mountains that I have set for myself. While the rule of the third shot is not bad, it's the stuff that leads to a great photo.
Further steps with your compositions
Hopefully, this article has given you a taste of how many more compositions are there than just drawing an imaginary grid of thirds. We've already worked on how-to-geek to fill in the frame and use limited color palettes. You can also play around with some of the above techniques and see how they work with your pictures. My favorite composition source is Canon of Design; Many of their things get paid, but there are still some great, free articles.