How To Use The Rule of Thirds To Get Charming Compositions

By EyeEm - 6 min read

Improve the look and feel of your photographs with these easy tips.

Always wondered how to improve the composition of your photographs? Try the rule of thirds. We’ll show you how it works with the help of a some easy tips & tricks and a selection of charming photos from our community.

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The Rule of Thirds is one of the basic guidelines of composing images. Based on the assumption that the human eye finds photos that are composed in a geometric pattern pleasing, this simple rule helps you to beautifully arrange the subjects on your photo to catch the attention of your viewers.

Once you get the drift of it, you’ll immediately understand how you can perfectly frame a photo and see your storytelling evolving.

Lone person sitting on beach overlooking sea

How to apply the Rule of Thirds

Visualise your photo as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal and two vertical lines (marked pink). Within this grid the intersections of the lines highlight the four strongest focal points (marked green). The pair of lines represent the second strongest focal lines of your photograph.

Depending on the subject and the format you’re choosing, the simple trick of the Rule of Thirds is to divide your photo into 3 parts. Always remember: one, two, three.Got it? Then let’s see how to apply the rule to landscape, portrait and street photography.

1. Shooting landscapes with the rule of thirds

Set the horizon either on the upper or lower horizontal line. Landmarks are best placed on one of the vertical lines. Consider the lighter or darker areas as a part of your composition too. High contrast or light points will catch the attention of the viewers eyes. So can clouds and sunbeams give your image direction.

Hot air balloons against sky at dusk

2. Shooting portraitswith the rule of thirds

Check that the eyes and the mouth of your model are oriented along the horizontal lines. The cheeks and hair can support the vertical focal points. If the portrait leaves some room at the side compose the space around your model asymmetrical.

3. Shooting street photography with the rule of thirds

Check the balance between architectural lines and the persons in the streets. The eyes of a person are staged best on one of the four focal points. In street photography it’s harder to control the impact of the surrounding on your compostition because there is a higher density of information.

To stay in control, hold on to remarkable structures, colours or shapes in the surrounding.

Train your eyes

Whenever you like a photo, you can easily check if the rule of thirds is applying for that particular image. You will be surprised how often this pattern returns in those images that appear intuitively pleasing to you.

Check the photos below. Can you see how the rule of thirds applies?

Woman under umbrella in city

Helpful links:
rule of thirds bookmarklet

Apps to support your composition:
– for iOS Sense Cam
– for Android Sensor-Kamera