Use the Rule of Thirds to Make Better Images: Stop Taking Snapshots and Begin Taking Photographs Using Composition

Use the Rule of Thirds to Make Better Images: Stop Taking Snapshots and Begin Taking Photographs Using Composition 

Many amateur photographers return home disappointed with their travel photographs. Although taken at world-famous locations, the images often lack the same punch and interest created by professional photographers at the same locations.

As amateur equipment and dSLR technology rapidly increases, amateur shooters are often armed with similar equipment as professionals, but continue taking snapshots because of a lack of compositional understanding. Thankfully, three simple steps can enable any photographer to start taking better photos immediately: reposition the subject, fill the frame, and remove all unnecessary elements.

rule of thirds

Following Photography’s Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds states that important elements of all photographs should be positioned one-third of the way from the image’s edge. Imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines spaced apart evenly to create nine identical boxes within the camera's viewfinder. Important elements, like the subject's eyes, should be placed away from the center and near the position where two lines would intersect.

Many modern cameras enable photographers to add a grid pattern on the camera’s LCD display or within the viewfinder. Use this feature to increase the accuracy of each composition. For portraits, place the eyes where the lines intersect. For landscapes, focus on dividing the entire frame into three components: foreground, subject and background. The horizon line should never be placed in the center of the photograph.

Fill the Entire Frame to Improve Every Photograph

Every photograph needs a well-defined subject. Whether taking a portrait or a landscape, the viewer must immediately understand what the image is about or they will simply move on to the next image without a second glance.




To create memorable photographs, avoid is standing too far from important subjects. Moving a few steps closer to the subject will often do wonders to any image.

Removing Clutter to Define a Photograph

Internationally acclaimed photojournalist Garth Lenz suggests photographers always look at the image practically and determine what originally drew their attention to the scene. Then simply eliminate unnecessary objects within the frame until only the important elements remain.

Step closer to a subject to eliminate distracting elements around the edge of the frame. Zoom in to reduce the amount of visible sky, while limiting foreground between the camera and subject. If objects, like a parked car, are within the frame, simply recompose the image or wait until the car is moved. Every effort put into removing unneeded and distracting elements will be rewarded with cleaner and stronger images.

Light can also make an image appear cluttered. Too much light on one area will draw the viewers attention away from the subject, while too little light can reduce clarity and leave harsh shadows throughout the scene. Learn to understand light and use it to highlight key elements rather than as a distraction.

With most photography, always remember that less is often more.