Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds

Lesson 4/13 - The Rule of Thirds


Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds


Lesson Info

The Rule of Thirds

Now we move on to the rule of thirds. Generally, when you start learning about composition, this is kind of the first one you learn about. Basically what it says is that an image is divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal and two equally spaced vertical lines, think of a tic-tac-toe. Alright, and that you should put important compositional elements along these lines or their intersections, remember the intersections are called eyes, and proponents of this technique believe that it creates more tension, energy, and interest in the composition than just centering the subject would. And this works really well, again, when you're creating graphic, flat, two-dimensional compositions. I see often times people will do this on a horizon that's vanishing off in the distance and it can, kind of, sort of work, but that horizon represents a very strong compositional line and it kind of goes against this flatter aesthetic. So if you actually use this a little bit more two-dim...

ensionally, it's gonna be a lot more effective for you. So, let's take a look at some examples of the rule of thirds. So, here we have right here, subject sitting over on the right hand side. The other reason we call this the golden rule, or one of the golden rules, is because all the shapes have the same ratio to each other. So, for example, this bottom square is the same ratio as this square, which is the same ratio as this square. Now you'll notice, certain parts of this probably don't adhere to the rule, and this is when we talk about common sense. So, yeah, kind of the bottom of the couch and the top of the couch, sort of, to a degree runs along that line. You also have his face at the intersection, obviously, but you're like, what about the light in the top left hand corner? That doesn't adhere to it at all. This is that common sense element of balance. If we were to just look at this image normally, and that light were not there, it would be a big empty space, right? And if I cropped in the image and I went in closer, I wouldn't necessarily have the environment, it wouldn't feel as balanced, because of the statue in the middle or the light in the background. So, I wanted to create this sense of symmetry and balance for the room, because that's how the room is set up. So, that light helps to give balance to an otherwise empty, dark area by including it in that wider shot. So, it does give a little bit more scope to the composition and, again, provides balance. Common sense. There you go. Very simple one, right? Very, very simple. Another very, very simple one. We're just kind of putting it along the bottom third. You'll notice it doesn't always have to be exact. These are guides, and you're gonna see this the deeper we dig into this, several of the compositions fit mostly over it, but it's not gonna necessarily adhere to exact dimensions. I know if you pull up Lightroom, you can change the crop and all of these other things, but just because it gives you the option to line things up exactly, it doesn't mean you have to. Close, it's a guide, right? And so this is a very simple version of that guide, and this one is a little bit more dimensional. And so where the last one basically used that bottom line and it used those couple of intersections, this utilizes several lines and several intersections. We've got the one that goes across the arms and the chest, creates a very strong line. And we have the two that frame the door, and the last one goes through the knees, and so it divides the image up quite evenly. Here's a comparison. I know that wide-angle is slightly different but you've got a center composition versus a wide-angle composition. Sorry, a center composition versus a rule of thirds. And you can actually see there's just a little bit more visual interest by putting him a little bit off to the side. Also, the pose is better there. Look at him, he looks majestic.

Class Description

You know the basics of composition – now take it to the next level. Good composition is more than following a strict set of rules and guidelines. In fact, those very things can stifle your creativity and make your work fade into the pack of other photographers. In this class, Chris Knight shows you that there is more to composition than a few lines – it’s about creating balance in an image. He’ll introduce the Gestalt Principle and encourage you to look beyond the rule of thirds and utilize contrast, leading lines and more for interesting and dynamic images.



I have to say, perhaps if you are an academic or a college trained photographer/artist/painter etc., this may be old hat to you. However, if you are like me and have never been exposed to definitions and descriptions of composition, this was a shock-and-awe inspiring reveal of these artistic concepts. I can guarantee I will watch these over and over again while I try to absorb even a little of this material, but Creative Live could make an all day class of this guy explaining this material. material he quite obviously loves and uses and his passion for the subject matter is very obvious. This class is making me consider a trip back to the campus to get more information on this subject. Quick, contract Chris Knight to develop a whole class before I end up in college!!! Highly recommend this class.

Matthew De Moraes

Really useful tips and tricks to improve your understanding of composition and why you like the images you like - which you can then use to further your own ability to take great images in camera.

a Creativelive Student

What a FANTASTIC presentation! I loved it. Best instruction I have ever seen/read as a graphic designer for 33 years. I majored in art and graphic communications in college before becoming a designer. Well done Chris. Definitely buying the class.