1 Introduction and rule of thirds

1 Introduction and rule of thirds

1 Introduction and rule of thirds

The Rule of thirds…

The Golden Rule, The Golden Section, or the Divine Proportion; whatever you want to call it, it usually turns a good image into a great image.

Why is that?

According to whom?

What is it?

Does it always apply?

Let’s look into it a little closer and see.

The Rule of thirds (as we will call it) was rediscovered by Fibonacci -Leonardo of Pisa in his book Liber Abaci in the 13th century. The ancient Greeks believed in perfect proportions. Pythagoras (560-480 BC), the Greek geometer, proved that the Golden Proportion was the basis for the proportions of the human figure. He showed that the human body is built with each part in a definite Golden Proportion to all the other parts. It was clear to an artist of the Classical period of Greece that the beauty of the whole depends on the harmony of the parts which comprise it, and that each part depends on the others in order to create a harmonious group. Essentially, beauty consists in the proportions not the elements, but of the parts.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The Fibonacci numbers, they are called this in honour of Fibonacci developing the golden proportion further, are Nature’s numbering structure. You will find them in the pattern of leaves on a tree, the scales of a pineapple, petals on a flower, or kernels of corn on the cob. This phenomenon appears to be one of the principal “laws of nature”. They even apply to every living cells growth, or a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, breeding of rabbits, and the spirals of shells.

The Fibonacci Numbers or Sequence as they are also called is a numerical convention that starts with 0 and 1. After that, use the simple rule: Add the last two numbers to get the next. 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233 …

Mathematically and in the arts, the golden ratio as the ancient Greeks knew it as 1:1.618 which is the same as 0.618:1. It is denoted by the Greek letter phi (Ö or ø) and the irrational mathematical constant, approximately 1.6180339887. The good news is that the ratio is close to the 35mm ratio.

Simply put, the rule of thirds divides the photo into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. By aligning the most important element(s) on the intersecting points you will have effectively used the rule of thirds. Another name for the important element(s) is focal point(s). While other names for the intersecting points are the power point or crash point.

By using the rule of thirds you create more tension, energy, and interest in the composition.

Must you always use the Rule of Thirds, of course not. Whenever you are creating art you use the best tools possible to get your message across. The Rule of Third is a very important and valuable tool.

Rule of thirds 1

You can add dramatic interest without upsetting balance by placing the key points of your subject at the cross section at any of the four points where the lines cross, like this:

rule of thirds 2 rule of thirds 3

Let's look at a few examples of images that don't employ the rule of thirds and then are cropped to show what happens when you do use the Rule of Thirds. The change is subtle but powerful at the same time.


Find 5 of your favorite pictures from the internet and use Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro to divide the picture into thirds. Then using five photographs you have taken, do the same thing.

When you have done this, look at each of the ten images and explain to me:

1. Where is the action in the picture occurring?

2. Tell me if that particular photo is following the rule of thirds?

3. Can you find exceptions?

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