You know what they say, “before you break the rules, you need to master them.”The statement applies to pretty much every vocation, and more so with photography and videography. Before you decide to do something new, understanding the basics is crucial. The rule of thirds for photography and videography is no exception.  If you’re looking to improve your photos and videos by incorporating the rule of thirds into them, then this blog is for you. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss the rule of thirds definition for photography and videography, give examples, and talk about how to bend the rule for creative outputs! 

Basics of Rule of Thirds Photography: The Rule in a Nutshell 

In a nutshell, the rule of thirds is used to create a composition that balances your subject or subjects with the other elements in the photo. One of the common reasons why photographers make use of this rule is to manage the composition to draw the viewer’s eye to the primary focus of the photo, even if the surroundings are negative. 

Here’s what the rule of thirds in photography is about:

  • The rule of thirds makes use of composition grids. The concept works on putting your subject on or in one of the four grids of the composition. Usually, the subject is placed at the intersection of any one of these points. This helps in creating a pleasing photo.
  • A helpful tip for photography with the rule of thirds is to have the elements of nature and surroundings, like the landscape, the horizon, the sky, objects, or people in the upper or the lower portion of the frame. This allows you to create a balanced composition. However, placing elements of the landscape in the upper and lower parts of the composition is the most common and widely accepted form of using the rule of thirds.
  • To make use of the rule of thirds, all you need to do is tinker with the settings and use grids. You can even find it in your smartphone’s camera. You can make use of the rule of thirds in horizontal or vertical shots. 

Well, that brings us to the end of the rule of thirds explanation for photography. A friendly reminder to keep in mind is that every camera is different. So, there’s a chance you may find the option to add grids easily, or you may have to dig a little deeper in your settings. Regardless of that, the easiest way to find the settings for using grids in your camera is by flipping your camera manual open. That said, you can use 3×3, 6×4, or any other kinds of grid settings in your camera. Practice with different angles and styles to understand the basics of composition. 

Photography and Rule of Thirds: How to break the rule of thirds?

The first thing to keep in mind is that you don’t break rules recklessly. Randomly breaking or ignoring the rule of thirds will not give you a photo that you’ll love or be proud of. Instead, try consciously breaking the rule so that your composition does not look sloppy. It may seem difficult, but it gets easier with practice.

There are three prominent ways to break the rule of thirds:

  • Dead Center

Placing your subject in the dead center of the composition will give you an amazing photo. You can balance the surroundings while keeping your subject in the center. However, ensure that the photo is divided perfectly in half on either side of the subject. One of the reasons why this works is because it brings the subject to the center, draws the viewers’ attention, and reduces the importance of the subject’s surroundings. 

  • Cornered Composition 

Once you get used to making use of the grids, it is very easy to switch between angles. A cornered shot, especially with the help of the grids, will give you a way to add a creative flair to your photo. Try placing your subject in the corner or adding elements of their outfits or elements of the surroundings that flow into the composition in the corners to create something different. This can especially work well with bridal portraits and brides who wear veils. One of the reasons why a cornered composition works well is that corners are mostly forgotten about. Using them is a bold move, and can work wonders. However, this will demand practice. 

  • Use the Edges 

Using the edges of the frame can give you the freedom to add a dramatic quality to your photos. You should experiment with the subject bursting out of the edge of the frame. This can work well for photography assignments where you have a beautiful landscape as well. You can incorporate the landscape and the subjects into the composition. However, the general rule of thumb to break the rule of thirds for landscape photography is that you can either have a lot of the sky or dial it down. Another thing to remember is that on the surface it seems similar to the “cornered” composition we discussed in the previous point, but in essence, is very different. In cornered shots, the subject of subjects is placed in the corners. On the other hand, using the edges is placing the subject or subjects directly at the edge of the photo frame. 

Bonus: Break the Rule of Thirds with Confidence with these Tips

Before you decide to break the rule of thirds, you need to remember the essence of the rule. Always remember that the rule of thirds is a rule, a guideline, to help you compose your photos better. When you want to break it, with confidence at that, you will need to understand what is the primary “attraction” of the photo. For example, do you want your viewers to look at the eyes of the subject when you take portraits? Do you want the viewer to look at a beautiful pendant when you take a portrait? 

With that said, make use of the tips below to take stunning photos whilst breaking the rule of thirds:

  • Try walking around your subject to see which composition works the best. 
  • If you want your subject to look off in the photo, make sure that you place them in a way that they’re looking off to a space that is included in your frame. 
  • Work with the horizon even as you take portraits. Perfectly placing the landscape will add vivid details to your photos. 

Videography and the Rule of Thirds: The Rule in a Nutshell

First things first, the rule of thirds is not a math equation. It is a simple rule that helps you compose your film, making it effective and appealing to your viewers. The rule of thirds is one of the most used guidelines in the world of cinematography, to this day. Although there are many reasons, the best one continues to be that it creates a dynamic visual, it creates a conversation between the subject and their surroundings, and above all, it tells a story effortlessly. With filmmaking, you can use this to direct the eyes of your audience, the viewer won’t know where to look unless you take them along. In other words, the rule is pretty much the same as we discussed above for photography.

However, unlike still photography, filming your subjects is a little different since you will have motion in the equation as well. The rule of thirds in films not only takes the composition with the aid of intersection points but also needs attention to the flow of movements of your subjects and your camera. Whether it is a vertical composition or a horizontal composition, you need to choose the direction of the video. 

One of the best ways to make use of the rule of thirds in your videography assignment is to place your subject between interactions, and then create a symmetrical balance with other points of intersections. Take the iconic scene from Joker in 2019, where Joaquin Phoenix walks down the stairs. You can use that as inspiration to understand the flow of the film with the rule of thirds. 

To use the rule of thirds in your video assignment you make use of these tips: 

  • Remember to place the objects in the grids. Imagine the grid, and place your subject or subjects between those. 
  • You can place two subjects in the same frame. Use the intersections to drive your frame. Placing the subjects at the intersections will give you a balanced look even as your video moves. With two subjects in the same frame, remember to place them on different grids, placing one subject in the dead center will make the other subject seem less important. 
  • Always pay attention to the landscape. Similar to photography and the rule of thirds, your videos will come alive when you place the landscape in the composition carefully. Always remember, the landscape should support the “primary attraction of the video,” it could be a subject or an object. 

If you master the rule of thirds for photography, you’ll have no trouble implementing it into your videos. 

Golden Tip for Using the Rule of Thirds for your Videos 

Frame your subject in the intersections of the grid. Move your camera along the prominent subject to create a dynamic shot. However, if you cannot move your camera to the best spots to film your prominent subjects, simply try moving your subject and work with the grid lines. 

The best way to implement this in your work is to understand what you want to show first before you start rolling your camera. Give the end result of your video a thought, consider the horizons, the elements of nature, and your subjects before you start filming.

Videography and Rule of Thirds: How to break the rule of thirds?

When it comes to using the rule of thirds in videography, the first thing to remember is that this is trickier than using it for photography. One of the important things to remember is that mastering the rule of thirds in videos will require practice, loads of it. Furthermore, you’ll need to be vigilant when you watch movies or videos, to understand how the rule of thirds works, and how directors make use of this, to understand and capture the essence of the rule when you shoot your videos. 

Here are a few ways to break the rule of thirds in videos:

  • Firstly, try placing your subject in the dead center of the frame. Whether you have many people around your subjects, or you take it from a distance, always ensure that your primary subject or subjects are in the center. This will keep your audience’s eyes on the subjects, no matter how many things happen in the surroundings. 
  • Always understand what you want to show and figure out where you want your viewers to look. You can simply flip the rule. The rule of thirds dictates that the horizon should be a small part of your composition, it could be on the top or lower end. But, how about flipping it and adding your subject in the lower part instead of the horizon, leaving the upper part for other aspects? Not sure if this would work, look at Mr. Robot, the TV show. Mr. Robot had gathered a lot of attention thanks to its vivid and unconventional composition and framing of scenes. 

Know this Before You Leave for Better Use of and to Break the Rule of Thirds with Utter Confidence

It may sound like coming full circle, which to be honest, is a quality that all photos and videos share, and is a piece of practical advice – before you break the rule, master them. Photos and videos are subject to interpretation, the addition of psychological elements, and above all, composition. Before you set out to break the rule, imbibe the rule, so much so that it becomes muscle memory. Once you completely get a hold of it, you’ll know what parts of the composition can be tinkered with to create the perfect shot. Of course, the ideas above will help you. But there are mere starting points. Once the rule becomes a part of your process, you’ll find yourself playing with different angles, experimenting with different frames to create something unique to you and your style.

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