This morning, a friend asked whether I use “that whole rule of thirds thing when composing or cropping.” I certainly do, except when I don’t.
In a nutshell the “rule of thirds” says that if you trisect an image horizontally and vertically, the natural centers of interest occur at the intersections of the trisection lines. People obsessed with the rule of thirds insist that a symmetrical image with the subject precisely centered is inherently boring.
I find it funny that a species that can parse “Thou Shalt Not Kill” into “it’s okay to kill” includes members who hold steadfastly to a mathematical determination of what is visually interesting and what is not. Pah! There are plenty of times when a perfectly centered smiling face is so compelling that bi-directional symmetry is not a sin. Besides, a human face typically becomes the center of interest, wherever it appears in a photo. You can still achieve interesting balance with negative space, leading lines, and other compositional elements.
My compositional guideline is the “suggestion of thirds.” My camera viewfinder features a built-in grid, and the cropping tool in Aperture shows a trisection grid as well. So yes, I consider the rule of thirds when composing and cropping, but I don’t feel bound by it. If I can land an eye or a breast at an intersection of the thirds, I do so and I feel pretty crafty about it. But usually, I just try to keep my subject off center while shooting, and then I crop until I like the image.
Composition is a really rich subject. Here you will find a link to a presentation I did for the Ojai Photography Club. I found the main content at Nikonians.com and got permission from the fellow who created it – bless the Internet! It’s a fun and quick way for patient, conscientious photographers to learn a number of techniques for more interesting compositions. Of course, this blog is for lazy, disorganized, impatient shooters, so you can also just move around, experiment, and not center everything.
By the way, I’ll bet you want to see Cabaret now that you’ve seen these teaser images. Well, you should, because it’s going to be great.