The Rule of Thirds is the most widely used photography composition technique in landscape photography because of its simplicity and ease of application. It is a no-brainer formula to produce compelling landscape images.
The Rule of Thirds is generally used along with other photography composition techniques like Leading Lines, Diagonal Lines, Framing, and Patterns. I will cover each of these topics in upcoming articles. Get it delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing.
We looked at the definition and why it is called as Rule of Thirds in this article. Now let us take a look at its specific usage in Landscape Photography.
Why Should You Compose a Photograph?
Consider that you set out to take a Sunrise photograph at an exotic beach. You got up early in the morning and rushed to the spot in the darkness.
First few splendid rays of the sunrise start to spill slowly. You are overwhelmed, you want to capture that moment before it is last forever. You setup your tripod and camera pointing towards the best possible light. Your heart is pounding every minute and brain is working even harder.
You click several photographs in succession before the sun becomes brighter and brighter with vanishing colors.
Now what? You come back to your room and then browse through those photographs…probably you are disappointed! because photograph is not showing what you actually saw there.
Why? There are two basic reasons:
You did not enjoy the sunrise in the first place. You were busy clicking so many photographs that you did not really lived that moment
You did not compose the photograph in a way which evokes the same feeling when you look at the photograph
Composing a photograph makes you stop, see, think, and then click.
How does the Rule of Thirds make Your photography Compelling?
Rule of Thirds gives you a framework to make your photograph compelling. It is important to understand that it is framework.
You have to use this framework to make your photograph compelling. What does that indicate? It is just a helper for you, nothing more nothing less.
Consider the same example. You are all set and you see the first rays of light filling up the sky with those splendid colors. You setup your tripod and camera pointing towards it.
But this time, you will compose the photograph before clicking. Meaning you will stop for a moment, see the sunrise with your own eyes to feel it, then think about how best can you represent the scene and then make a photograph.
As per the Rule of Thirds guideline, you will bring the horizon closer to either top third line or bottom third line.
Why should You put Horizon on either Top or Bottom Third
Because Rule of Thirds states it 🙂
It is common tendency that we place the horizon in the center! Before knowing this rule, most of my photographs were having horizon in the center..how about yours?
Horizon on the center makes a landscape photograph lifeless only if:
- The sky (background) is plain blue or washed out. Which makes half of your photograph boring
- The beach (foreground to middle ground) is too dark or does not have any interesting waves or interesting foreground. Which again makes half of your photography boring
By now, you realize what you should do to make your photograph interesting. I bet your have!
In simple words:
- Place the horizon on or close to top third line, if the sky or background is boring
- Place the horizon on or close to bottom third line, if the beach or foreground is boring
When to use Four Intersection Points in the Rule of Thirds?
As you are aware, it is recommended to place the main point of interest on one of the four intersection points as noted in The Rule of Thirds article.
It is very important to create depth in the landscape photographs to give a three-dimensional effect.
You can make use of sand stones or driftwood or some other interesting objects in the foreground to create depth in the photograph. If possible, place these interesting foreground elements on the intersection point!
When to Break the Rule of Thirds?
You might already know the reason by now.
If foreground to middle ground is more interesting than the background then go ahead and break it.
Or, if the sun and the clouds are so very beautiful, that you cannot include so much in the foreground, then cut short the foreground!
If you find that both foreground and background are very interesting, you may want to include best of both and create more compelling photograph.
I hope I have convinced you enough to believe why the Rule of Thirds is most widely in the Landscape Photography. Haven’t I?
Now that you know, why it works and when it works, it is very easy for you to make a decision if you would like to use it or not.
However, remember the most important thing. Try to avoid clicking lot of photographs as you may miss one of the most beautiful and enlightening moment of your life. What is the point in trying to capture something extraordinary if you did not enjoy it in the first place?!
I have failed to enjoy the beautiful places and occasions many a times in hurriedness of capturing that one-time moment. But the funny thing is, my wife gets away with some of the beautiful moments by enjoying the Sunrises and the Sunsets!
I would love to listen to your experiences, thoughts and opinions…