“Rule” of Thirds

I’ve been banging this post idea around in my head for a while.  And since Scott’s assignment this month is related to the Rule of Thirds I thought I would take a side step from my Elements of Photographic Composition series and discuss.

One day Hubby asked me, “Why isn’t this centered?”McGraw Tower

Well, because it’s not supposed to be – it’s the rule of thirds (if you need a definition, click here).  But his comment got me to thinking – why do we blindly follow this rule?  Who said things will look better if they are off-centered?  And while I’m at it, I thought we were supposed to fill the frame?  How do we fill the frame AND use the rule of thirds?  Sometimes I just get so confused – if photography is an art why does it have so many stinking rules???
I got a surprise!!

Take a look at the above: it fills the frame (not a lot of extraneous background junk going on) and the center of the flower is the in upper right third. So I think this fits the rules.  Would either of these pictures look better or worse if they were centered in the frame?  For me, that’s a matter of opinion – the opinion of the observer.  Some (like Hubby) may not like the off-kilter look.
Sunrise over the marsh
Is this a “bad” picture because the horizon line is centered?  I remember taking this picture and my intent was to include the cloud patterns while also including the grasses near my feet to show scale and proportion.  Perhaps I should have sat down, perhaps I should have done a horizontal shot instead, perhaps I could have zoomed in more, shown less clouds, etc.  The second guessing could be endless.

Body of Water

Everyone and their brother in Ithaca has taken this shot and there might be a good reason why!  Horizon is in the lower third, tree is in the left third, I could have done a little better in lining up with the point or the bench so that they are more in the right lower or right upper quadrant but I think this pretty well exemplifies the whole rule of thirds thing.

Most of my photography I’m shooting mainly for myself.  It’s nice when other people like it but I’m not trying to make a living here.  So my goal is to shoot what I like!!  And you never know what’s going to appeal to someone (and what won’t appeal to someone else).  That said, these rules are around for a reason – they are tried and true and there’s probably a good reason they’re still around.  So I will always make an effort to follow them – but if I end up with a shot that is centered – I’m OK with that too.

Have fun!!


3 thoughts on ““Rule” of Thirds

  1. Pingback: The elephant in the room « The Aspiring Photographer

  2. I look at the rule of thirds as a “jumping off” point. If you are trying to frame up a pretty shot, it is a way to consider arranging the picture. There are times when dead-centering a shot is perfect too. I think these are some of the reasons photography is indeed an art and not a science.

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