The Rule of Thirds

Taking a professional looking photograph is easier than it seems, and by following the ‘Rule of Thirds’ this varsity, the photos you can capture will look like those seen in the sports section of a magazine. It gives you the opportunity to capture your own moments, whether it be the perfect try, or if it comes to it for Swansea, a horrifying loss.

What is the ‘Rule of Thirds’?
This rule states that the most important factors of a photograph, such as a person or animal, should be placed either along the gridlines or, more importantly, where the gridlines meet. By doing this, and placing these elements away from the centre of the frame it balances the composition of the photo. Obviously, the Rule of Three isn’t compulsory to taking photos and sometimes really effective photos have deliberately placed the object in the centre.

Any professional photographer will swear by this rule, it is one of the easiest and most important ways to compose a photograph well. Most SLR cameras have legend lines that you can add to a photo before taking it. This is done to straighten and align photos, which is basically the Rule of Three. On newer versions of phone cameras, you can put these gridlines on too. This means anyone (yes, even you) can follow the rule of three.

Landscapes and The Rule of Thirds
Landscapes are the main type of photo that any budding photographer should use. Landscape photos can look jarring if you place the horizon along the centre of the photograph, so it is recommended that the horizon should fall in the lower third gridline. The reason for this is because the sky, and everything above the horizon is probably a lot more interesting than the foreground subjects. However if the foreground is the focus then the horizon should fall in the top grid line.

Pipes and Beaches. Subjects left and right guideline

The Off-Centre Subject
Before you take any photograph your first thought should be: what is the subject of this meant to be? As soon as you decide this, it’s a question of where you, as a photographer, desire the positioning to be. Whilst taking a photo and having the subject as the central image can be really powerful, if you wish for the subject to be off centre, the rule of thirds can help you.

If a horizon is included in the photo it is recommended that the horizon and the central subject should both fall in the top third. If the horizon is not a focus point in your photograph, I would recommend putting the subject to either the left or right hand side, or the bottom of the photo.

Active Photos and Gridlines
For active shots (such as sports photos) the Rule of Thirds is perfect. For active photos it is recommended that you put the subject, in this case the athlete, on either side of the page. This is because you want enough space in the photo to show the athlete moving into the emptiness.

To take good active photos I would recommend using a DSLR camera. This is because the shutter speed on a camera allows the photographer to take a good, focused active photo. With a phone, whilst some of the cameras on them are very good, some of the photos may come out blurred and you would have missed the perfect shot.

Get Shooting!
Now that you know the basics for the Rule of Thirds, it’s time to go out there and practice. Take your phone or camera, go on a walk and see how you can experiment with this rule. To add more experience, keep practising at varsity – I’d love to see what you come up with.

Happy Shooting!
If you wish to contribute to the Swansea University Photography Section with the photos you take this Varsity, please contact the editor at

by Charlotte Husbands


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