Composition – Suggestion of Thirds

In my last post I talked about The Rule of Thirds. As you might recall I said “Rules, chiseled in stone, as far as creative endeavors are concerned, should never be.” This is the reason I call it “The Suggestion of Thirds.” To quickly recap, The Suggestion of Thirds says to divide the viewfinder into a tic tac toe grid so you have 9 areas of the same size. Placing your main subject where two of those lines intersect will give you a more pleasing composition. Basically, keep your main subject out of the center of the frame.

Is it ok to place the main subject of your image in the exact center? Of course it is. Should you center your subject every time? Well, maybe not. Two things I tell my students to take away from a discussion of The Suggestion of Thirds are: 1) Don’t automatically center your main subject and 2) Don’t automatically place the horizon so it runs through the center of your image. We have covered the first part, centering your subject, so now lets talk about the second part, moving the horizon from the center of your image.

Georgetown from the Key Bridge
Georgetown from the Key Bridge

By moving the horizon closer to the top of the frame (tilting the camera down) you can add foreground interest to your image. At the beach for instance, show footsteps in the foreground, waves in the middle distance and the horizon and sky in the background. This helps your viewer’s eye move into your image from something interesting in the foreground all the way through your image to the background. On the other hand tilting the camera up you can place the horizon low in the frame. This way you can show the large expanse of the sky and clouds over the scene you are photographing.

US Capitol and Reflecting Pool
US Capitol and Reflecting Pool

Choosing where you want the horizon and placing it there, makes you take your time and create better images. Is it ok to place the horizon close to the center of the image? Absolutely! Moving the horizon up or down is just another way for you to add interest to your images. Adding reflections, even though the horizon is near the center of the image, is another way to add interest to your images and shows that it is ok to center the horizon.

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