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The Rule of Thirds | Family Photography Hints Tips and Advice

Whether a professional photographer or a snapshotter (is that a word?) doing the family photography, you need to know about the Rule of Thirds.

We are talking here about the composition of the picture within the frame of the image. How do you decide where to put the main subject? In the middle? What looks best? Why do some shots look more pleasing than others? I am about to reveal the secret.

But first, let me introduce you to Adam – he will be marrying Alex over the Christmas period – how romantic.  They will be familiar to followers of my Facebook page from a recent post.

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Take a look at this shot – Adam looks fantastic but the composition is all a bit, well, uninspiring. Despite the fact his head is positioned neatly in the centre. (If you want to know why the picture is not straight, take a look at my post on varying the angle)





family photographyHowever, if we move his head up in the frame then it starts to feel better. This is because we have reduced the amount of “head room” above his head. This area rarely has anything interesting to add to the shot.




family photography

Notice how, if we draw a line across the shot at the height of his head, that line is one third of the way down the image. In part, this composition looks better because his head (the focus of the shot) is on that line.




family photographyLet’s add the other lines that fall on the one-third marks, horizontally and vertically. The four intersection points are important. Where you can, use them to position the part of the image (usually head or eyes) you want viewers to focus on.





family photography

Look what happens when we position Adam on the left hand vertical.





And here is the clean, final image. Much nicer, eh? Does that image feel more pleasing to you? Now you know why.

family photographyPlease, please folks, don’t go getting out rulers and measuring the preview monitor in your shots. This is a Rule of Thumb designed to guide you and after some practice you will naturally “feel” the shot’s composition. Trust me, it will happen with perseverance.

Let me now introduce Alex who has joined Adam for this shot (she is also of Facebook post fame.) They both feature in the next shot – a much wider shot but one that still illustrates the Rule of Thirds. First just look at the shot – can you see the thirds?

family photography

Notice how this image is build around the Rule of Thirds:

On the left vertical is the tree, on the right Alex and Adam (on the bottom right intersection). The ground/green occupies the lower third of the picture, the trees are in the centre third and the sky dominates the top third. See what I mean:

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Now it’s your turn:

Grab your camera and a willing subject, if you can, but for this exercise a human subject is not necessary:

Take a series of shots experimenting with placing key parts of the images and the natural lines in accordance with The Rule of Thirds.

Do you feel an improvement? Would you use this in some of your family photography? Do let me know what you think.

And, most of all, enjoy yourself . . .


This post is a one in a series on Family Photography hints, tips and advice that I will be posting in the run up to Christmas. Please add a comment here or on my Facebook page if there is any aspect of your photography you’d like some help with.

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