2D Perspective

2D Perspective: The Rule of Thirds

Have you ever wondered why there are grid line features in the settings of your camera?

Well, you see, those gridlines actually can help give you a better result when taking photos. When you are confused on what angle you need to take to get a good shot, remember those gridlines called the rule of thirds. It will certainly change a part of your perspective of the 2D world. 

The Origin

Before we delve deeper into the identity of the Rule of Thirds, we must first know its history.  This idea of using a rule when photographing was pleasingly successful and the first one who cited and named this was an engraver, painter, and writer named John Thomas Smith who was known as Antiquity Smith because of his previously published work.

In 1797, Smith wrote a short book with the title ‘Remarks on Rural Scenery’ which features twenty etchings of cottages, from nature; and some observations and precepts relative to the picturesque. He mentions a 1783 work by Sir Joshua Reynolds which addresses the balance of dark and light in a picture in unquantified terms. The idea was then expanded by John Thomas Smith, and named it the “Rule of thirds.”

2D Perspective

What is the Rule of Thirds?

When you hear the word thirds, what do you usually think of? I’m guessing you are imagining a square or rectangle cut into three parts. Well, on the Rule of Thirds, it’s half-right. You just need to add a little more to what you visualize.

Think of this, a frame with nine smaller equal squares inside. See it? That’s the Rule of Thirds.

According to the rule of thirds, dividing any composition into thirds, vertically and horizontally, and then placing the major pieces of your image along these lines or at their intersections will result in a more engaging, attractive, and dynamic arrangement.

It is what photographers both professional and amateurs use in taking their breathtaking photos that attract many people’s eyes.

How to use it?

When taking photos of landscapes and other things, most people tend to place the subjects of their photos right in the middle of the frame. The Rule of Thirds does otherwise. It avoids the center and places the head of the subjects on the intersections of the gridlines.

Now, why is this rule avoiding the center when having the subject in the center would make it more visible to the viewer? Well, the answer lies in the difference in the feels of the central and the off-centered subject. Having the subject ⅓ to the side would make a photo give a feeling of motion rather than a photo with a centered subject.

If the subject you have decided on is small, you can position it at an intersection of the grid lines and if the subject is a longer one, you can use the whole line for its position.

Let’s say your subject is a person or an animal, when you take their photo, consider the direction they are facing at. If your subject’s attention is to the left, their position in the frame should be at the right side intersection of the grid, vice versa. It gives the notion of the area or space where the subject is probing.

Can We Use the Rule of Thirds?

2D Perspective

Whoever uses the Rule of Third does not mean that person is a professional in the field of photography. This rule actually is so simple that it can be used by anyone aspiring to have effective photos to take. Nowadays, aside from DLSR cameras, even smartphones have features that can display the grids. Hence, whatever device you use as long as you have a camera, the rule of thirds is accessible.

The rule of thirds actually does not only help photographers in their work but also gives a guide to painters and artists. Do they need to draw their own grid lines? Well, some of them do, but this rule can be also used mentally.

When to use the Rule of Thirds?

Rule of Thirds is actually just one of the techniques of photography and when you start taking pictures, it does not mean that you need to follow this rule every time. It’s an option. And just like how promises are meant to be broken, rules like this need not be guarded for a lifetime. There are instances that you can’t help but ignore this rule because it is not necessary.

You can use it in the conditions like taking a photo of a subject with a wide landscape in the background. This rule was originally for taking photos of their subjects slightly off the center. Now, when do you not use it? Actually, it depends on the subject and you. Instances where the subject is in the center of the photo and looks pleasing, are common and in that case, there is no need for the use of the rule of thirds.

Final Words

The Rule of Thirds is an essential technique when it comes to photography, painting, and other forms of artwork. It is not, however, an unbreakable rule. You can’t just blindly use this when in fact the scenario of the subject does not match with the technique. The use of this rule comes with some conditions and when met, the outcome of the photo would come out good.