Understanding the science and art of improving composition.

Do you keep the grid of camera on, or add grid while cropping the photos to make the picture fit into the rule of thirds power points? Do you find pictures improving? What do you think happens while using grids? There’s an art and science at work as we use the rule of thirds. Let’s find out.

Rule of thirds is a ratio. It is, simply, 2:1. In 1800s, Sir Joshua Reynolds set the ratio of warm color to cold color as 2:1 in a painting. The famous painter’s ratio stuck a chord with other painters of the age. They took it to other aspects, especially while defining the horizon, which became in the ratio of 2:1.

What is a Grid?
Yet, all we see about the rule of thirds is a grid. Wonder why? When we draw lines dividing a frame in all possible 2:1 ratio, we get 4 lines. That becomes our grid, having 4 focus points that are formed where the lines interact. In simpler words, when we divide both the sides if the frame into three parts, we get 2 lines each. Each of those lines represents a 2:1 ratio.

Every focus point is following the 2:1 ratio twice over. Thus, having the grid simply improves the 2:1 ratio impact. Grid is a simplification of the ratio. When in doubt, remember the ratio. If the doubt increases, follow the grid.

What are the Power Points?

The four focus points which are created upon drawing four lines on the frame are called power points. The power points aren’t only about ratio but also provide to us a peek into how our eyes see frames. Our eyes naturally focus on those four focus points, and this is why the points become important. But there’s an even more important factor – the Golden Ratio. That is an accurate depiction of how our eyes see.

The Golden Ratio – Natural Phenomenon & Photography Guide

In nature, we see golden ratio more often than the rule of thirds. For example, in the patterns of petals on a flower. This ratio is 1:1.618. This ratio exists from insect patterns to galaxies. Dividing a frame as per the golden ratio is slightly more complex, until you understand the context. Below, every line divides a frame into 1:1.618. The space in the bottom right is where the last such ratio exists, giving us the perfect framing guide.

Golden ratio and rule of thirds both lay emphasis on negative space, albeit indirectly. The minimal images are often framed as per the rule of thirds or the golden ratio. Using the space creatively, or minimally, you can create compelling imagery.

Is It Really a Rule?

Rule of Thirds, despite its name, isn’t really a rule but a guideline to improve your photography. In the end, your subject dictates the composition, as does your style of storytelling. These guidelines are meant to help you create better pictures, but not all good pictures come from this rule.

There are also other guidelines to improve photography. Symmetry, for example, is the one that can’t co-exist with rule of thirds. It is all about knowing the subject, knowing the process, and practicing the photography of the subject in multiple ways.

Rule of thirds is found to have improved photography, but it isn’t everything. A picture is about a story. Compelling imagery can be created with or without rules. Using them makes it slightly easier, though.

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