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The Rule of Almost Thirds

Just about everyone knows that an image tends to look best when the subject is pushed to either side of the image, following the photography rule of thirds.

My camera even has a little grid overlay feature I can turn on that divides my live view screen into thirds to help me compose the shot. That’s pretty handy, and it’s great for making sure the camera is held straight (straightening horizon lines, walls, whatever).

But a lot of times I find myself adhering TOO closely to the little points on the grid, sticking my subject exactly on the “crosshairs” of the dividing lines. Framing a subject according to exact geometric thirds should be best, right? That’s what I think as I’m busy paying attention to all the other elements of the shot at the same time.

Then I remind myself, again, the rule of thirds is not a rule, it’s a guideline. Just like those guidelines on my camera display screen; they aren’t meant to be used as an absolute. So out of curiosity,  going through some different pictures I’d taken with an obvious use of the “rule” of thirds, I put a grid over them in photoshop dividing them into thirds to see if they matched the corners exactly.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Of course, none of these match up with the center of the dividing lines. And none of them need to! It could even be the rule of fourths, as in some of my examples. The photographic rule of thumb should just be “keep the main subject out of the center third”, that’s all.

Even though I just said it’s a guideline, not a rule, remember that rules are made to be broken. Lots of photographs can work just fine with the subject in the center. It all depends on the individual look and situation.

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Categories: Photography
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