Composition: The Rule of Thirds

Composition: The Rule of Thirds

by Brad Monnerjahn 



This is a sunset I shot in 2014 at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, Louisiana. The sun is NOT rare in Louisiana, but beaches are. So when I realized I was on a beach, IN Louisiana, during sunset, well I had to get it right. One of the first rules often taught to beginning photographers is the Rule of Thirds. This is a great tool for creating more interesting compositions. Sometimes I break this rule, but mostly I try to stick to it. The above photograph is a perfect example of the Rule of Thirds.


It’s easier to picture this rule in action if I add a simple grid overlay to the above picture. Just pretend there’s a tic-tac-toe board over your picture. You want to try to align your subject matter so it lands on an intersection of horizontal and vertical lines. Another way to utilize the grid is to have the subject lined up to the left third, right third, top third, or bottom third of the photo. 

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Here’s how it works in this instance. First, you can see the sun lands directly on one of these intersections. Secondly, the two trees are aligned on the right third of the frame. Finally, the horizon lands on the lower horizontal third, dividing the photo into one third beach/water and two thirds sky.