Want to create visually interesting images? Then don’t forget about the rule of thirds. Today we continue in the series, Photography 101 with a quick tutorial explaining the rule of thirds and how to apply it to images.

One of the common “mistakes” photographers can make is to put the important elements of a photo in the dead center of the shot. While this may work in some cases, this generally leads to a dull, flat image. That is where the rule of thirds comes in.

It is fairly simple. The rule of thirds suggests that an image be divided into nine equal parts as if an imaginary grid was laid over the image. The grid has equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines.


On the grid, there would be four intersecting points. These are called the “power points.”

Power points

To apply the rule of thirds, the subject or the important elements of the photo should be aligned to any of the horizontal or vertical lines or to any of the “power points.”

Of course, these elements do not have to fall exactly on the lines or “power points” but an effort should be made to get as close as possible. Let’s look at the example below:


(Carson  was shot outdoors. Exif info: f5.6, 1/80 sec., ISO 200)

Here are some special tips for different type of shots:

Camera Tip: Use your camera’s viewfinder grid display. Check the owner’s manual for directions on how to activate this feature.


  • Place the horizon line on the bottom horizontal line. This will prevent the image from looking as if the horizon is cutting the photo in half.
  • Always make sure that the horizon line is straight


  • When shooting people, line the person’s body up along one of the vertical lines with eye’s aligned to one of the horizontal lines.

Action or sports

  • Use the same guidelines for shooting portraits. However, make sure that any extra room is in front of the subject or in the direction that the subject is moving.  This is known as “lead room.”

All photographers want to take shots that appeal to the eye and convey a sense of energy, tension, or emotion. Using the rule of the thirds can help do that. It is a simple rule but when applied, it can make a dramatic difference in your photos. Next week, Photography 101 will continue with a lesson on depth of field.


Kim Jones has been in the photography universe for over 20 years. After taking a long break from photography, she is working her way back into the field by randomly walking the streets with a camera.