"Dead Center is Deadly!"

That's a quote from one of my favorite photography teachers, Rick Sammon.  "Dead center is deadly" is a quote he says often and if you think of it while you're taking photographs, it's one of the easiest ways to make more interesting and well balanced photos.  You notice the difference right away.  People will immediately start making comments to you like "hey, your photos don't suck anymore" and "wow, you must have a really good camera!"  That second one is my favorite.  Cameras don't take pictures, PEOPLE DO! But I digress.

So, what the heck am I talking about.  It all comes down to one of the most well known principles of photography and composition... the rule of thirds.

The “Rule of Thirds” one of the first things that budding photographers learn about in classes on photography and rightly so as it is the basis for well balanced and interesting photos and it will have an immediate impact on the quality of your shots.

Now the saying "rules were meant to be broken" came from somewhere and probably came from somebody who liked to speed, steal stuff or kill people, but those are a tad more serious than what I'm talking about, however, this rule too, the rule of thirds, was meant to be broken and ignoring this one doesn’t mean your images are necessarily unbalanced, uninteresting, or extra sucky. 

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. As you’re taking an image you would have done this in your mind through your viewfinder or in the LCD display that you use to frame your shot. With this grid in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important parts of the image. Where the lines intersect is where, in theory, you'd want to place your points of interest as your frame your image.

The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally. Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the shot – using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it.

In this shot my subject was the gas pumps.  Notice how their placement falls directly on the bottom left intersecting lines, following the rule of thirds.

So give it a try next time and see how your pictures compare.  If your images suck, then send me a note and tell me to suck it.  However, more likely you find your images to be much more interesting.  As the old saying goes... try it, you'll like it!


In this photo, the boat is placed almost directly on the bottom right intersection point.  Had the boat been placed directly in the middle of the image, it would feel much less balanced and interesting.