The Rule of Thirds, Part 2--Lines

Sunrise Over Atlantic
In my first post on this series on the rule of thirds, we discussed the benefit of thinking of an image divided in thirds horizontally and vertically, like there's a tic-tac-toe grid overlaying the image.  In the first post, we looked at using the spaces provided within this grid, and in particular, positioning large subjects into a grouping four of the nine spaces (four in a corner), with the subject facing into the frame.

I now want to consider the benefit of using the lines of the rule of thirds.  Think of a photo that includes the horizon or a photo of a tree.  It's very common, especially for beginning photographers, to put the horizon in the middle of the frame or to put the tree in center.  There are good reasons for doing this on occasion (especially if your subject is a mirrored reflection), but very often these kinds of shots make your image feel split in two, like you have two photos stitched together.

Very often your composition will be improved if you put horizontal lines at or near one of the horizontal lines in the rule of thirds, of if you put vertical lines at or near one of the vertical lines in the rule of thirds.  This can open up your composition and can help the viewer see what's of greater interest.  Consider the above photograph of a sunrise taken at Crescent Beach near St. Augustine, FL. The rocks in the foreground were of greater interest to me, so I put the horizon up near the upper line of the rule of thirds.  Notice that it's not exact.  Some other photos I took that morning follow the rule more closely.  But the horizon is far enough off center that the eye can move freely around the frame, creating more interest for the viewer.