Composition and The Rule of Thirds


Sometimes, I like to venture over to our local marina and imagine I am one of them – a boat owner – the “people of the boats” I like to call them. I envision climbing on board one of the welcoming vessels and heading out to sea navigating to an island paradise. Or, perhaps, cruising down the coast to another town, anchoring in its harbor and spending the day exploring. Each one of those boats possesses  the potential for adventure. What a way to travel! But alas, eventually reality sets in. I am not a person of the boats. I get seasick for one thing and the sight of the boats being scraped of barnacles or painted, varnished and having general upkeep performed on them reminds me of this. It’s still fun to daydream though and recently I slipped in to the harbor with the idea of composition, specifically the rule of thirds, in mind.


The purpose of the rule is to help with composing  interesting and compelling photos. It involves mentally dividing your viewfinder or photo into a grid with two vertical  and two horizontal lines which are crisscrossed to make a 3X3 grid, like a tic-tac-toe game. The idea is to place the parts of the photo you want to be the points of interest near the intersecting points of the grid.

_MG_0055When photographing a landscape, it is much more compelling, generally, if the horizon is not in the middle of the picture but aligned with one of the lines of thirds.

_MG_0098By placing the horizon line in either the top or bottom third, the emphasis will be on either the sky or the water or land.

Some movement in the water caught my eye and I discovered there were a number of round rays swimming amongst the rocks.

_MG_0065Then, as I was getting ready to leave the harbor, a heron flew across the horizon. It can be difficult to capture moving subjects in one of those grid intersections. Re-composing via cropping can be done in photoshop later. You don’t want to rely on that all the time but it can help occasionally. Also, there is a grid you can use in photoshop in case you are having trouble visualizing the grid in your mind.

Heron in FlightI believe we shouldn’t be too restricted by rules in our creative endeavors, so keep it in mind and experiment with the rule thirds when composing if you haven’t yet, but if you like your horizon lines in the middle of your photos, go for it.


~ Susan

Read the Lines

It’s February and that means we have a new theme. This month’s photographic concept is leading lines.  Photographically speaking, it is a compositional tool in which the photographer utilizes lines to engage and draw the viewer into the photo and/or highlight a subject.

leading lines children walkingIt can be subtle

LA city hall and musi center fountainor more obvious.

IMG_4433.JPGlead line

Sometimes, these lines will lead the eye through and out of the photo.

Park path leading line

wyoming country roadLines are everywhere once you start noticing and are often created by objects such as a road, a tree line, a building, telephone poles, stairs, there are many possibilities. Your lines  don’t have to be straight; so keep your eyes out for curvy and diagonal lines as well.

Versailles grounds leading linesWith an eye on the lines.

~ Susan

Lines in a photo can be used to highlight a subject and bring a viewer’s eye to that subject or beyond.

Search for lines to incorporate into your photography this week.
Look for diagonal and curved lines also.
Place your subject in such a way that the lines draw a viewer’s eyes to your subject.

Look for works by one of your favorite photographers, in a book or online or go to a museum, and see if you can find leading lines in their photos. Take note of how your experience of that picture is affected by these lines.