Lone tree by Lancaster, PA illustrating the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds

There is a tendency to always center the subject of a photo in the middle of the frame. However, images that follow the rule of thirds can have a greater visual impact.

The rule of thirds places two horizontal and two vertical lines at equal distances across an image to divide it into nine imaginary sectors. Primary compositional elements should be placed along these lines or at their intersections. This prevents horizons from appearing to divide a photo in half, and makes images look more interesting.


Good photographs should naturally draw a viewer's eyes to their subject. One way to accomplish this is to blur other elements so that only the subject is sharply in focus. The size of the camera's aperture has a major effect on this technique. When shooting a portrait, you can use a large aperture such as f/3.5 to blur the background and emphasize the person. For landscapes, you may prefer a smaller aperture such as f/16 to keep the entire scene in focus. If you set your camera to aperture priority mode you will be able to manually choose the desired aperture and the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to compensate.

Tip: It is easier to blur a background if you zoom in or move the camera closer to your subject.

Person at top of steps illustrating leading lines

Leading lines

Leading lines are visual elements that naturally guide the viewer's eyes toward your subject. In the photo on the right, the narrowing perspective of the steps effectively draws attention to the subject and makes the image more interesting and impactful.

Next: Learn about motion.