Photography Tips for Rule of Thirds and Composition

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Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

Can I tell you a secret?

How your image is composed is critical for creating a quality image.

You can have a super beautiful light and surroundings that look great, but if you compose (aka crop) the image poorly, the image looks amateur.

When you are trying to build your brand and your business, you need professional looking images. Otherwise people will scroll on past, and that won’t bring $$ to your bank account right?

That’s why I show up on this blog weekly. To help you learn how to create more dynamic images so you can elevate your own brand and stop people from scrolling on by ignoring your message (and all your work).

But is quality photography that important you may wonder?

The answer is yes.

The images you use in your business convey what your brand is about, so those images better connect with people otherwise you’ll be sitting there doing all the work without any of the fruits of your labor!

And composition is one of those things that non photographers scratch their head at, so I want to show you how it matters and the simple changes you can make to elevate your photos and in turn, your brand!

Photography tips for Rule of Thirds and Image Composition:

Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

Rule of Thirds

You probably hear people talk about the Rule of Thirds all the time, but what exactly does it mean and why does it matter?

Take a look at the photo above, where you can see two horizontal lines and two vertical lines overlaid on the image. This is the visual of the rule of thirds.

Do you see where I put 4 green dots on the image? That is where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect.

Those green dots are the focal point of where to have the focus/subject of the image to make the composition visually interesting.

You don’t have to exactly on the dots, just aim for the focus of your image to be on/near them and you’re photo will be more compelling.

As a general rule, you don’t want to center your subject as then the focal point isn’t near the green dots where the lines intersect..

Remove Distracting Elements

Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

Another important rule to composition and cropping your image to to remove those distracting elements that don’t add to your photo.

Be aware before you take the photo that everything in the foreground and background is adding to story in the image.

Look up at the image on the left. You can see the garage is open, and the AC is in the window, but the rest of the photo shows a guy hanging out in front of his Vanagon. The AC and the garage don’t add to the story and only distract, making the image look less professional.

I cropped the distracting elements out, and matched the amount of the Vanagon I saw on the left and right of the subject to bring my focus back to the subject.

By cropping into the vanagon on one side and not the other, it looked like a mistake, which lowers the perceived quality of the image.

Avoid Cropping People at the Joints

When photographing people, unless you are shooting their whole body, you end up cropping into them to get closer. But did you realize that it’s important where you crop? If you cut someone off at their joint, it looks like their limb has been amputated, but if you crop up or down from that joint, it removes that tension/confusion in the image.

Always avoid cutting people off at the neck, elbows, wrists, knees or ankles.

Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

Avoid Tension at the Edge of the Image

When you crop near the edge of something, but didn’t quite crop into it, it causes visual tension in the image, and can be distracting.

Look up at the image above, and look at both bumpers. The bumpers are not cropped into, but there is only a sliver between the edge of the bumper and the end of the photo. Back up and give a little space that removes that tension.

Also, see how the photo above has the feet just barely cut into, and the top of the photo has ample unused space. Be aware of not cutting into the subjects fee. If you move the composition down just a tad, you’ll have his feet fully in the image, and you don’t lose anything at the top.

Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

Watch the Horizon

Use the horizon to keep your image straight. The horizon can be the actual Earth’s horizon, or something in the image, like this Vanagon roof. The image on the left looks like they are falling down a hill, and the image on the right is accurate to what our mind expects to see.

When you show something that the mind doesn’t expect to see, it needs to be intentional to grab attention or it ends up distracting from the point of the image. A crooked horizon just distracts, so straighten it up!

Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

Don’t look out of the frame.

When you have the subject looking to the left or right, be aware of how close the edge of the frame is to the direction they are looking.

You want the subject to bring the eye into the photo more. If you have them framed to look out of the image, it brings the viewers eye out of the image as well.

Adjust the frame so that there is more space to look in the direction that the subject is looking so you have an idea of what they are looking to.

Crop for the End Use

Will you be using this image for Instagram where you need a square?

Or Pinterest that would need a vertical?

Or Facebook and Twitter that need a horizontal?

Make sure you think about where and how you will want to use the image before taking it so that you can make sure the crop you end up using works for the image!


Let’s recap these photography tips for composition.

  1. Use the rule of thirds
  2. Remove distracting elements
  3. Don’t crop people at their joints
  4. Leave space to avoid tension in the image
  5. watch your horizon line
  6. Don’t look out of the frame
  7. Crop for the end use


Photography Tips for rule of thirds and composition.

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