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Photography: 15 Great Examples of the Rule of Thirds in Action

Creative Market March 31, 2021 · 4 min read

The Rule of Thirds is a theory dictating how an image should be composed in order to create an aesthetically pleasing result. In all honesty, it’s more of a guideline than an actual rule. The principle involves splitting an image into nine equal parts. First, you draw two lines vertically (in your mind, don’t whip out a pencil) to form three evenly-spaced sections. Then draw two more lines horizontally. You now have nine equal-sized squares. For the most visually arresting photo, your subject or subjects should land where any two lines cross. For those counting at home, that gives you four options for focus in one composition.
To give you an idea of what the Rule of Thirds looks like, here are 15 great examples by independent photographers just like you.

Leaves

In this stunning nature shot, the artist emphasizes the various hues and organic shape of flora by placing the tip of the stick at the top left cross section of the imaginary guide, created by the Rule of Thirds.
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Cup of Tea #1

The yellow lemon slice floats delicately in the center of the teacup, drawing the eye not only because of its color, but also because it sits at the bottom right cross section of the guide.
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Macaroons

The delicate sprinkles of the blue confection’s shell are the first thing the eye takes in before moving to his yellow buddy with black seeds, and then over to the stack of other vibrantly hued treats, thanks to the Rule of Thirds.
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Raindrops With Bokeh

Not all examples of the Rule of Thirds in photography feature vertical alignment. In this photo, the subject is horizontal, but the philosophy is still applied. Those water droplets create a cross section of their own with the blades of leaves.
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Watch, Fountain Pen and Note Book

Even simple compositions are improved by the almighty Rule. Though this image is a collection of three related items, they create a picture with depth thanks to how the eye moves around the objects.
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Byke Ride Close Up

Besides the wonderful use of color here, the bike rider is blurred around the main area of focus: her gear shifter and the right edge of her hand.
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Slots 1

Difficulties sometimes arise when taking a particularly long or wide shot, but application of the Rule keeps the composition interesting and guides the eyes through the illuminated openings and textured ridges of the wall.
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Chia on a Wooden Spoon

All those tiny pieces of chia seed come into perfect focus in the bottom right section of the grid with the straying seeds drifting off in all directions. The spoon handle also follows the grid line.
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Close Up

When it comes to people, if you want the focus on the face, you’ll want to place the eyes on one of the cross sections to create the greatest impact. The result is intimate and intriguing.
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Foamy Latte on the Edge of a Chair

The precarious location of this steamy cup of Joe serves as a pedestal to the coffee’s monument. Coffee is often an essential tool in any artist’s collection, so it makes sense it should be honored with the Rule.
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Tomayto Tomahto

Fun to say and fun to eat, this image captures the ruby red ripeness of fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes by piling them up near the top and bottom left side cross sections.
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iPhone in a Workplace

Form and function appropriately combine in this pro-marketing picture. Even advertisements benefit from sound theories, and this one places the smartphone immediately in the right side crosshairs.
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Making Coffee Latte Barista

Coffee again: it’s a very popular subject for artists, as the beverage and its rituals are rich in texture and visual interest. This picture has many more elements, but the action of pouring the frothed milk is clearly the main subject.
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Game Gems

There are lots of game pieces in this photo, but the ones in focus are placed–you guessed it–where the grid lines cross. The grid that exists on the board only adds to the beauty.
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Song Festival

The subject doesn’t have to be perfectly placed in the crosscut, as in this picture, which has only the edge of the brightly purple headband in the aforementioned sector. However, it is the main element (the color also suggests this), so the Rule still applies.
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Go Try It!

Many theories, principles and suggestions offer insight into how to be a great photographer, but the Rule of Thirds is an essential piece of advice for all artists and admirers of art. These examples should help elevate your next collection, whether you’re making or buying it.

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11 Comments
  • Absolutely love when the Rule of Thirds is done right. Great post! 8 years ago
  • One of the best rules, and an easy one for beginners. 8 years ago
  • We're always teaching this concept to our designers and photographers. In fact, we often try to get 8 shots of a good composition. Four pictures, each with the focal point at one of the four intersections of the grid utilizing a portrait layout, then four more utilizing a landscape layout. This way, when we use the photo in a design, we've given ourselves eight options for layout of the text information instead of "making it work" with one or two compositions. Thanks for posting this fabulous teaching tool, we've already shared it on FB and Twitter...we're sure to keep sending peeps here! 8 years ago
  • Wow, I have just tried this, and it works - great tips, thank you! 8 years ago
  • Helpful post! I sometimes forget about the rules of third, but this is a great reminder. Thank you! 8 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Thanks for the post. Great help, but sometimes I feel it is even great to break this rule. Learn the rules to break them later = ) 8 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Awesome work with the rule. I mainly use this rule for my shots, now I will try to be more creative with this rule after seeing these striking examples. 8 years ago
  • All nice shots and good examples! Yay! 7 years ago
  • beautiful pic 7 years ago
  • I hate this website with passion, it was so bad, I'm raging, filled with anger... I have recently dealt with my wives death so i went into depression, now i read this website and it gave me over 9000 sadness. Poor website, will never visit again. 5 years ago