Photography Cheat Sheet: Composing with the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the basic and fundamental composition techniques every photographer should learn.

When in doubt about your composition, one of your best bets is to go with the Rule of Thirds. This is why every photographer is encouraged to begin mastering this technique when they’re starting out. Read on to see how you can apply it to the shots you want with this handy photography cheat sheet by Company Folders.

Below, you’ll find some examples of how to compose your portraits, landscapes, architecture, and action shots. These are some of the most common kinds of photography that you can practice the Rule of Thirds with. Basically, this technique divides your frame into a 3×3 grid with two vertical and horizontal lines. You position your subject in the spots where these lines intersect to create a pleasing and dynamic composition. See if your camera has the Rule of Thirds (or “grid”) shooting mode to help you compose shots with this technique.

 

For portraits, the cheat sheet suggests overlapping the eyes of your subject on the intersections of the grid. This allows you to create a better sense of eye contact compared with simply placing your subject dead-center in the frame. It also works great if you have more than one subject, as we see in the example above.
Landscape photos also benefit from this composition technique. The key is to divide your scene into three and align the horizon over one of the two horizontal lines of the grid. If the area below the horizon is more visually interesting, place it on the upper horizontal line. If the sky deserves more attention, align it on the lower horizontal line.
For architectural photography, the Rule of Thirds is one of the ways to draw attention to the focal points of the structures. It’s also an effective way to communicate action by placing your subject on one side of the grid and leaving space in the frame to indicate the direction they’re facing or going.
Once you’ve mastered this technique, you’ll occasionally want to see if breaking it would do the trick instead. For that, we suggest checking out our introduction to the Rule of Thirds and how to break it.