Here in Powell River on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of BC, the weather is warming up quite nicely and my yard is starting to show some fantastic blooms. You gotta love spring.
As mentioned in my last post “Spring Brings Macro” I talked about a future blog on the “rule of thirds.” Well, here it is.
According to Wikipedia, the rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography and design. The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.
Okay, great. Let’s visualize this shall we?
Biker on Palm Beach
I’ll start with this shot of my good friend Kelly taking in a magical Powell River sunset from a mountain bike. I have divided the shot into nine equal sections, as described above by Wikipedia. See how Kelly sits right along the meeting point of two of those lines? This, in a nutshell is the rule of thirds at work.
Biker on Palm Beach - Centered
Here, I have cropped the same image to show you what happens when Kelly sits directly in the centre of the frame. I greatly prefer the image that follows the rule of thirds in this case.
Let’s look at another example. This time, I’ll illustrate the rule with a vertical image. Notice again, how the key subject is positioned almost directly upon two intersecting points of our divisional lines. This composition invites the eye to focus first on the subject, then follow an inviting path towards the branch and unopened buds in the background. If I were to have centered the subject, the image would not have this inviting feel.
Who doesn’t love rebellion? Although I am an advocate for the rule of thirds, there comes a time when breaking the rule not only makes me feel like a photography badass, it increases the overall impact of the image. Take this image below of a kayaker in Desolation Sound. I played with a few different compositions here, including utilizing the golden rule, but I always get drawn back to this image, where my main subject is centered.
Kayaker in Desolation Sound
In my opinion, the centered aspect of my main subject works well here because of the balance offered by my kayak on the left, and the beautiful volcano-shaped mountain on the right.
Here’s one of my favourite shots taken on my honeymoon last year on Vancouver Island near Parksville.
The bridge and its reflection are centered within the composition and create an overall sense of balance. Another example of when breaking the rules is a good thing. Deciding on when to use the rule, or when to break it, only comes from practice. Continue to experiment. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Digital photography is great for experimentation, you can always rely on your delete image button when a certain composition isn’t working for you 🙂
If you are interested in learning more about the art of composition, join Outdoor Photography Canada columnist Kelly Funk and myself at Coast in Focus in Powell River May 28-30. We’ll uncover more photography rules, and how to effectively break them!