photography composition rule of thirds

When it comes to taking great photographs one of the key things all good photographers know is the meaning of the rule of thirds.

Photography Composition Rule of Thirds


All great photographers know when it comes to taking pictures, regardless of the type of camera, Point and Shoot, Digital SLR you need to understand some core principles that make the difference between a good shot and a great shot. This concept is where the rule of thirds comes in.

Typically you can take a camera, point it at your subject, focus them in the centre and click, you just created a new portrait shot. You upload it to your computer or printer and print yourself a copy, looks good. But where not here to create good, you’ve come here to learn how to create great photo shots. So let us begin by explaining what the rule of thirds is. What we are talking about is a simple equally spaced grid of two horizontal and vertical lines. Check out the Diagram below:

photo of rule of thirds grid


You can now see from the Diagram each of the horizontal and vertical lines has intersection spots that I have added a box showing the location of the focal points. Any one of these four squares is now considered a focal point of where you can line up your subject.

When you set up to take a picture, some cameras may have a built-in function allowing you to have this grid on screen through your viewfinder when focusing. Most cameras would at least show a rectangular box where you would pick one of the corners as the focal point. If not, you will just need to rely on your imaginary grid interpretation that is what all the pros do.

So from the diagram you will choose one of the four intersecting squares on the grid. This square will now represent your focal point as a reference. The reason I say reference is you do not need the square in the exact spot of your focal point. For instance, when you shot a portrait of your subject you would use one of their eyes as your focal point of reference. You would line your grid square on their eye for the sharpest focus, to take your shot. The thing is, you do not need to be directly over the eye to focus your picture, in the neighbourhood works just fine. To show you what I mean, take a look at the photo below with my two models.


photo of photography composition rule of thirds grid


For this particular shot, you can see the top left square is slightly up and over to the right of our forward model Liz. The picture shows that the square is not directly over Liz’s right eye. Instead, we are what I like to call in the neighbourhood. Leonardo is in the background happily modeling as an extra to display the depth of field effect in this case.

You can see from the pose of each model the options as a photographer how you could take the photograph. For example:

  • By shifting the camera slightly, the bottom square right eye of forward model Liz, top right square left eye of back model Leonardo both subjects could be in total focus.
  • Same shot but focusing on either Liz or Leonardo

The actual picture taken of Liz has her face framed by the upper Square at the top of her head with the lower focal point square on the bottom of her head. These two focal point squares are then also focused on the rule of thirds from left to right on Liz’s whole face.


photo of photography composition rule of thirds

So there you have it Photography Composition Rule of Thirds featuring supermodels Liz and Leonardo in another great portrait photo shoot.

Do you need to apply the rule of thirds for all your photographs, of course not but that’s another lesson for another day, or you can just simply go here and learn whatever you want from all the video tutorials.


Click here for Free Photography Courses Online

at Say It With Photographs under Photography Tips & Tutorials

go to post “Picture Composition Examples.” 



” Hi once again, I’m Travis Smithers author of Say It With Photographs where you will find tutorials on photography, editing software, cameras and accessories. The use of post production equipment and their operation to the creation of fantastic gifts for you, friends and family, enjoy. Comments and questions always welcomed here!



  1. Very good photography lesson. I’m excited to check out the rest.

  2. Travis, I remember this from when I was doing a black and white photography course 25 years ago (no digital cameras back then – it was all Ilford films and paper). Oh, the memories…. 🙂 Very well explained and I love the photos, but I do feel sorry for Leo… all out of focus and in the background… does he ever get in a shot…?

    I do like how you point out that it’s not a necessary ‘rule’ too, more of a guideline more than anything else – it doesn’t work for all photos. Just like the ‘rule’ that in portraiture your subject should be facing the light. I took an amazing photo of my Mum once, looking away from the light. It was moody and definitely made a point.

    All in all (I’m getting to the point I promise) a really informative site. Keep it up!

    • Thanks and it’s always good hearing from those who have also been using film prier to digital cameras and like you said its always nice to know the rules and when and how to change them for special photographs.

  3. Nice article about the rule of thirds. I am a photographer and this will really help people take better photos!

  4. Matt TheDopestMatrix

    First off, you got some pretty good lookin models! I understand what you mean with having the point right there in the center. THat camera looks badass, ive never seen one that has so much detail to be completely honest!

    Matt TheDopestMatrix

  5. Katerina Markakis

    Hello! Your website is really terrific! I loved this post of yours. It’s clean, easy to read, simple but very informative! I am not known for taking the best pictures but I would really like to learn how to take higher quality photos. I had no idea there are so many tricks that make a photo great.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Hello Travis,

    Thank you for this analytic post on how to take a good and best shot of photography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *