Rule of thirds and composition

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Dark Anghell, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. Dark Anghell

    Dark Anghell TPF Noob!

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    I was looking through Vanity Fair book of photographs and noticed that maybe 1/3 followed the rule of thirds. In the rest of photographs, the subject was in dead center...yet the picture still worked and my eyes were drawn to the subject.

    So when does one apply the rule and when is it acceptable to throw it out the window?
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    one applies the rule when it will help the composition
    one does not apply the rule when it will not help the composition

    experience - observing the works of others and limitations in the field will help you make this choice
     
  3. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    When the image would benefit by its use, that is when you should use the rule of thirds. That's a terrible circular argument, nearly, but it's the truth.

    It is not a hard-and-fast rule by any stretch of the imagination (nor are leading lines, symmetry, golden mean, or any of the other myriad rules).

    ROT is a 'rule' in so much as it's been known to produce compositions that can be attractive. Experienced artists will use it instinctively when (and only when) it will make the image better. It can serve as a guide to an inexperienced artist to perhaps try something that may make their image better. It can be used as an exercise for the budding artist to start making use of the rest of the frame. Like all rules of composition, it's a tool. The better you know how to use it, and more importantly, the better you know when to not use it, the stronger compositions you will create.

    It will (and should) never be applicable to every image. In fact, the vast majority of the images that do use it only employ part of it.
     
  4. Seefutlung

    Seefutlung TPF Noob!

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    To quote a professor of mine "... when all else fails, use the rule of three."
     
  5. CW Jones

    CW Jones TPF Noob!

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    Just look in my signature... no such thing as rules IMO as well.
     
  6. ANDS!

    ANDS! No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Vanity Fair is an AWESOME magazine for photographers. I buy it for nothing but that (too liberal of a magazine for me, although some of the articles are really good - the one in this months mag about the Godfather movies for instance).

    The ROT is just something people like to spit out to sound informed. You know what looks visually pleasing before you click the shutter. And if you don't - you will.
     
  7. CW Jones

    CW Jones TPF Noob!

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    yup all my teachers in the past have said basically the same thing, the rule of thirds doesn't mean anything really. If you like the way or the customer likes the way it looks... then you don't need a "rule" to follow.


    on a side note I do always have my grid lines on at all times just to make sure the horizon is level and what not, assuming that's what I am going for. otherwise they just get ignored!
     
  8. Dark Anghell

    Dark Anghell TPF Noob!

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    Sweet! Thank you guys. I think I may practice shooting virtually the same image with and without the rule being applied and see which pics work best. Hopefully it's like learning to drive manual...tough at first, but becomes second nature after a while.
     
  9. bdavis

    bdavis TPF Noob!

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    You kinda sound like Yoda... :mrgreen:
     
  10. CW Jones

    CW Jones TPF Noob!

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    ya If you can put grid lines on by all means do it, its going to help you big time! but dont always follow them
     
  11. Samanax

    Samanax TPF Noob!

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    I was talking with a friend of mine who is a professional free lance photographer/lighting specialist and I mentioned how nice it must be for guys with lots of experience because they just know when the shot looks right in the viewfinder and they don't have to constantly think about the rules of composition, lighting, etc... He just laughed and said I got it all wrong. He said that even though he's been shooting for almost 30 years he still thinks about each and every shot he takes...in fact he said he thinks more about his shots now than when he first started out.

    So according to my friend it might not become second nature.
     
  12. LarryD

    LarryD TPF Noob!

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    The rule of thirds is a pretty basic tool that helps teach beginners how to pleasingly compose a photograph so it doesn't look like a snap-shot...........

    But it's just one tool, and an easy one to learn to use..

    But, angles and composition are much more complex........ Look also for the "Golden Triangle" in photographs, where subjects are along certain planes within the frame and the "Golden Spiral" where large and small spaces (or subjects) are laid out in a spacial arrangement that draws the eye around the frame...

    As far as second nature, what becomes second nature is not automatically composing according to a rule, but automatically looking for that "ingrained" rule while looking in the viewfinder before pulling the trigger.

    This photo for example, appears to cut the frame in half vertically, contary to the rule of thirds, but the angle of the mountain to the ocean, and the bridge align roughly along the Golden Triangle, and fit into the cradle formed by that angle on the right side of the frame: it is pleasing but doesn't appear to conform to thr ROT.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2009

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