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  • Writer's pictureDon McCracken

The Suggestion of Thirds

Most people who have explored photography have encountered the rule of thirds. So, why do I call it a suggestion? In composition, I don't believe there are specific rules that all photographers must follow. There are suggestions. There are guidelines. And, sometimes, creating meaningful images means trying something new. With this said, I believe we should refer to the rule of thirds as a suggestion. Don't get me wrong. It is useful, and I apply it frequently. But when I do, I'm not thinking thirds. I'm simply trying to create a pleasing image. To apply the rule of thirds, divide the image into vertical and horizontal thirds. The lines and the intersections of those lines are the areas of compositional strength. The subject is placed along these lines. Even better, the subject, or an aspect of the subject such as an eye, are placed where the vertical and horizontal thirds intersect. This approach is useful and it does create pleasing images. However, we shouldn't see it as a rule that constrains our creativity. The image below follows the rule of thirds. The Snow Bunting is placed on the left vertical third. The bird's eye and feet are placed close to the intersections of the left vertical third and both horizontal thirds.

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