The first simple step to composing better photos.



To Compose

definition: Order or arrange (parts) to form a whole, especially in an artistic way.


Its perfectly natural to place the subject of your photo in the middle of your frame. That's what you want people to look at, right?



A worker fogs around a condo to control adult mosquitoes, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On September 1st 2016 Malaysia confirmed the first case of the Zika virus infection in the country involving a woman who had returned from a visit to Singapore. ©C. Pertwee


There are thousands of posts about photographic composition.


10 Top Photography Composition.

20 Composition Techniques That Will Improve Your Photos.

35 Photography Composition Rules and Tips.



All great articles packed full of information about composing photos and you should take the time to read some of them.


But 35 rules and tips? How are you going to remember all of those when you are out shooting?!?


Through 20 years of practical experience there is ONE technique that I use all the time.


The Rule of thirds.


It is relevant to all kinds of photography. Wether you are lining up a portrait, a group photo, a landscape, a seascape, cityscape, street scene.


You might use it in conjunction with other compositional concepts. But the rule of thirds will be in the mix.


It is very simple and it works with the square image format too. As the name suggests divide the viewing area into thirds - horizontallyand vertically.




Where the lines intersect are the points/ nodes you should place the key elements of your image. Use the horizontal and vertical lines to place horizon lines, people etc. Keep important elements out of the centre. See below.


Here is a "better" version of the picture above - more harmonious, easier to read.



A worker fogs around a condo to control adult mosquitoes, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On September 1st 2016 Malaysia confirmed the first case of the Zika virus infection in the country involving a woman who had returned from a visit to Singapore. ©C. Pertwee


When you lay the Rule of Thirds grid over the image:



Rule of Thirds Grid


It's not just relevant to photography - artists have been using the Rule of Thirds for centuries:



William Turner’s 1838 painting The Fighting Temeraire uses the Rule of Thirds in its composition. Note how the main subject of the painting, the group of boats, is positioned at an intersection on the grid, while the horizon lies roughly along the lowest horizontal grid line.


The Great Wave off Kanagawa - Hokusai - With Rule of Thirds grid overlay

On many cameras you can even set a grid view on the viewing screen or even the viewfinder as a guide.


A few more examples:



Afghan man posing for photograph in Kabul, Afghanistan. © C. Pertwee



The top of the Petronas Towers peeking above the clouds in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. © C. Pertwee

Have you ever pressed the shutter and thought you had an amazing picture in the box but you open it up on your big screen it doesn’t have the impact you hoped?


Turn on the gridlines in your software of choice (in photoshop for example) and see wether it adheres to the rule of thirds.


If it doesn’t can you crop it so that it does? If yes does it feel better? Has harmony returned to the universe?


Get Started!

Get shooting and put the rule of thirds into practice until it becomes second nature in your own photography. 




#behindthescenes #education #ruleofthirds #learning #tips #guides #techniques #photohacks #teaching #composition #photography #charlespertwee

 © 2019 by Charles Pertwee                        

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      mail@pertwee.com    |    +1 (786) 608 5542    |    Miami, Florida

Charles Pertwee is a photographer with over 20 years of experience. This site contains images from my extensive archive and new images. All images are available as fine art prints. I am passionate about landscapes, both natural and urban, the built environment and the ocean.