In this Graphic Design Lesson, we’ll be discussing about the Rule of Thirds. My name is Lalit Adhikari at LTY.


The rule of third is one of the most popular rules of composition and photography because it’s simple and effective. It creates an interesting balance between the foreground and background and adds depth and interest to the frame.

This rule is one of the most widely known fundamental ideas in composition and while it’s often thought of as ‘basic composition’ but understanding the principles behind it means knowing when to use it and when to break it.

Those of you who enjoy painting and photography have probably heard of the rule of third. It’s a general rule of composition for both photos and films.

And it’s the reason almost all cameras come with those grid lines that divide the photo into nine equal sections.

For hundreds of years, the rule of thirds has been one of the most universally accepted guidelines for composing photographs.

It’s a very simple way to start making effective compositions. This rule effectively accomplishes two main things.

First, it allows you to unambiguously direct attention in your photos creating the visual flow.

And secondly, this rule allows you to tell your audiences what the most interesting and important part of your scene is.

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What is the Rule of Third

Take a frame like you see on your smartphones or your computer screen and add two horizontal and vertical lines to it equally spaced throughout the frame. And that divides the frame into nine blocks i.e. boxes of equal sizes.

Here, it creates points of interests throughout the frame on the vertical lines, the horizontal lines, and the intersecting points.

interest points in rule of thirds
Concept of Rule of Third

According to the rule, if you add elements to these lines and insect points it’s going to capture the viewer’s attention and add interest to the frame by providing more depth and better balance to it.

Although there’s no rule for photography composition but there are guides. And when you understand how the rule works then you can understand how to use it effectively.

Now, I am showing you an image which is clicked by not following the rule of third. Here you can see that the main subject is right in the middle of the frame. Now, carefully see what it is doing.

It is making the viewer look directly into the center, taking whatever it is they are looking at and then probably look away, which is not really that interesting.

subject at middle
Subject at the middle of frame

However, when I add the rule of third in the photography and place the main subject of interest in the right or left thirds then it will add more depth and interest to the photo.

That’s the most simple way to describe how the rule of thirds works.

rule of thirds
Subject as per Rule of Thirds in Photography

One of the really great things about the rule of third is that it’s good for landscape photography.

This rule of third comes from 14th to the 15th-century mathematical concept of the Golden Section or Golden Mean and now in modern times it is known as ‘Rule of Thirds’.

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How to use Rule of Third

I’ve prepared a composition here following the rule of third. Now, let’s change this a bit by putting the subject of interest in the middle of the frame.

At a first glance you might not understand this much but let’s contemplate that for a moment. It’s okay, but is it a pleasing composition? Possibly not.

subject at middle
Subject at middle of frame

So, what do we do? We need to move the subject of interest to a different place in a picture. Here I am going to place the subject of interest on the vertical third of the left-hand side.

rule of thirds
Subject as per Rule of Thirds

Now, I got my ‘subject of interest’, I say that on the vertical third of the left-hand side of the fame.  The gap on the left-hand side of the picture is a third of the way in.

Now you can see your ‘subject of interest’ is sitting nicely in the crook of the vertical third and the horizontal third.

And this setting is considerably better than putting it in the middle.

Now, you can apply this design ethics to anything, it doesn’t have to be in landscape photography or any environment art. You can also use it for photography of portraits, building, and flowers.

Now, for this, I want to suggest you that when you are looking at a magazine or watching TV program just imagine these imaginary grid lines and see if it applies to the image.

If you are following our Free Graphic Design Learning Guide then next you should read about, ‘Golden Ratio‘.

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Lalit Adhikari
Lalit Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari is the Main Author and Admin at Learn That Yourself. He has work experience of more than 10 years in the field of Multimedia and teaching experience of more than 5 years.

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