What Is The Rule of Thirds?

Want to elevate your designs or photography or artwork? It might be time to do a little mathematics. Use the rule of thirds, one of the most beneficial composition techniques, to deliver astounding results time and again. Although you may already know something about the concept, it goes without saying that mastering the rule of thumb can help produce works that are far more engaging and balanced.

What Is The Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is when you take 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines to an imagine, making them all equidistant, so you get 9 boxes, kind of like The Brady Bunch opening. Using the lines and intersections around the center of the image, you can compose an image that is more aesthetically pleasing.

The notion is that off-center compositions are more attractive to the eye and look more natural, rather than in photos or design where the main subject is in the middle of the frame. The rule of thirds also wants you to use negative space more wisely.

How Does The Rule of Thirds Work?

Here are some ways you can apply the rule of thirds:

  • Portraits: The best portraits are when the subject is off center and their eyes overlap intersections on the grid, since intersections are usually focal points. This creates a sense of contact with the viewer, even if the subject is not looking at them.
  • Group Shots: If your photo has more than one person or subject, then you should position the subjects so that they are all located near intersections on the grid. Sometimes, this means placing the group in the center.
  • Landscapes: If you design as a horizon line, so to speak, you should always align it with one of the horizontal lines of the rule of thirds grid.
  • Motion: Do not cramp up or clutter the subject if you want to develop a sense of motion. There should be space left in the direction that the subject is moving.
  • Imagine and Text: Use negative space to accent the words and images.

When To Not Use The Rule of Thirds?

Now that we have talked about ways to apply the rule of thirds, let’s propose something a little crazy. Think of the rule of thumb as guidelines or as something you don’t need to concern yourself with 100 percent of the time. It is one thing to use the rule of thirds to help with setting up a design composition, but it’s another thing entirely to box yourself up within the technique.

Furthermore, give yourself the room to break the rules—at least a bit. When you are comfortable with the rule of thirds, you can start using the grid to shatter what is considered normal. Use it to create intrigue, or use it to suggest that there is something more to the photo or design or packing. You are going to have to play around to see what works for you.


Having learned a little more about the rule of thirds, you may begin to see it everywhere in marketing and advertising. The more you see, the more your eye for the concept will develop—and you will be using the rule of thirds even more! This will allow you to employ more advanced techniques to your designs.