The Rule of Thirds

A basic composition concept

It is often tempting to put the subject in the center of a shot, but in many cases moving it off-center can produce a more interesting image.

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If the main subject is off-center it needs to be balanced by some secondary element. This can often provide a context which can complement the subject. If a subject that is moving or looking toward the edge of the frame, for example, it is pleasing to have some room for it to move or look into.

This is where the Rule of Thirds comes into play. An ideal location for the subject in the frame is often considered to be a position 1/3 of the way into the frame both horizontally and vertically. This is sometimes called a power point. If you divide the frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically the power point would be on one of the four intersections.

This is only a general guideline, and won’t work for every image. And on the images where it does work it isn’t something you need to be absolutely precise about. But it’s worth playing with when you are composing a picture.

Diane Miller is a widely-exhibited freelance photographer who lives north of San Francisco, in the Wine Country, and specializes in fine-art nature photography. Her work, which can be found on her web site,, has been published and exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest. Many of her images are represented for stock by


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