Photo Tip of the Week: The Rule of Thirds
At first glance this image doesn’t look to conform with the "rule of thirds". However, you can see that the lightest part of the image is neatly positioned over the bottom-right “thirds” intersection point. Image by Charles McKean.
By Charles McKean
There are many rules and guidelines that you can use when composing images. One of the most popular is the Rule of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds is pretty simple, and works by drawing imaginary lines in equal thirds along the vertical and horizontal edges of an image. This leaves you with four intersecting points – the so-called strong points of a photo. The rule dictates that the most important picture element should be placed at one of these four points for optimal effect.
While the image on this page initially doesn’t look to conform with the rule, you can see that the lightest part of the image is neatly positioned over the bottom-right “thirds” intersection point.
Mostly the Rule of Thirds works well, sometimes it doesn’t, but either way it can be a useful starting point when you’re composing an image.
The Rule of Thirds can also come in handy when you're editing, helping you pick the best crop for the image, or add, subtract or move elements in a way that will generate maximum interest.
The following steps show you how to easily set up Photoshop's guides to follow the Rule of Thirds.
01 DOWNLOAD THE START IMAGE
Open your image in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CS.
02 ONE THIRD
In the main menu go to View > New Guide. In the dialogue box that appears, click the Horizontal button. Click the Position text box and type in 33.3%. Click OK. Your first guide is now visible on your image.
03 TWO THIRDS
Select View > New Guide again. Click the Horizontal button again and this time enter a value of 66.6%. Click OK to add your second guide.
04 FOUR THIRDS
To finish the guides repeat steps 02 and 03 with the Vertical radio button selected.
05 RECORD ACTION
If you’re using the full version of Photoshop you can create an action to set up your guides automatically. Open a new image and select Window > Actions in the main menu. Click the New Action icon at the bottom of the Actions panel. Enter a name for your action and click Record. In the main menu go to View > Clear Guides then follow steps 01 to 03 above. When you’re done, click the Stop icon at the bottom of the Actions panel.
06 PLAY ACTION
Now, to add your Rule of Thirds guides, simply select the action you just created and click Play. Remember, though, if you crop your photo you need to run the action again to match the new canvas size. (That’s why we made the first step View > Clear Guides.)
Chares McKean is an award-winning photographer. To see more of his work go to www.charlesmckean.com