The Rule of Thirds for Composite Photographers

What exactly is the Rule of Thirds and how can you use it, or better yet, break it, to make better Composites?

One of the most common criticisms I get, mostly from PPA judges, is that my Composited Portraits don’t follow the standard Rule of Thirds.

So, to help you better understand this crazy Compositional standard we call the Rule of Thirds and to see whether my work actually does break the rules or not, I’ve created this short video.

Now, let’s break, or breakdown, the Rule of Thirds.

What is the Rule of Thirds

If you’re new to the creative world or you are that Right Brain type of person who doesn’t really get into all the technical stuff of creativity, you might be wondering what exactly is the Rule of Thirds.

Oh, BTW, CLICK HERE if you’d like to take my Composition Test and see whether you’re a Right or Left brain creative.

Now, by definition, the Rule of Thirds is less of a “rule” and more of a guideline that proposes an image should be divided up into 9 equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.

rule of thirds and nine equal compartments

Of course, being the Right Brainer that I am, I say rules are meant to be broken and I rarely use these lines during my creative process.

How about you? Do you use the Rule of Thirds during your Creative Process?

Setting Your Guides in Photoshop

Ok, so you’re a rule follower like my wife Taren, who gets serious anxiety if she goes against the rules, or you would like to just check your Composite at the end of your creative process.

Either way, I’m going to show you how to easily set up your “Rule of Thirds” Guides in Photoshop.

Setting your Horizontal & Vertical Lines

To set your horizontal lines for the Rule of Thirds, first, click on “View” then select “New Guides”.

setting new guides in photoshop

In the New Guides window, select “Horizontal” and in “Position” type in 33%.

setting your photoshop guides for the rule of thirds

Simply repeat these steps for 66% and both your Vertical lines.

Breaking the Rule of Thirds

Just to be clear here, I am in no way advocating for you to break the Rule of Thirds or any other Compositional standards.

Ok, maybe I am a little, but…

Choosing to go against the grain or creating something different is more about the “feeling” of creativity rather than just breaking the rules because you can.

Look at it more as a challenge.

Now, let’s take a look at 2 of my Composited Portraits to see what following and/or breaking the Rule of Thirds looks like.

bass pro fishing photo composite follows the rule of thirds in photography

Following the Rule of Thirds, in my Photo Composite called “Bass Pro Fishing”, you can easily see the fishes mouth and the Bass Pro logo both fall well within the Primary Points of Interest, while my three main characters, the fish, the lure, and the fishing bobber all fall on the Rule of Thirds horizontal and vertical lines.

Those who follow the standards of Composition would DING this Composite for its centrally located horizon line.

photo composite that does not follow the rule of thirds

Breaking the Rule of Thirds, in my Composited Portrait called “Where it Counts”, you can easily see there is nothing that falls within the 4 Points of Interest, and other than the girl hitting her dad in the nuts and the flying plane ticket, nothing of significance falls on the horizontal or vertical lines.

Again, I guess I like centrally located horizon lines. LOL

That’s a Wrap

Alright, now that you have a better understanding of what the Rule of Thirds is, how to set up your Guides in Photoshop, and you’ve seen both rule-abiding and rule-breaking Composite samples, it’s time to put yourself to the Rule of Thirds test.

Don’t forget to give my video a THUMBS UP and to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel for more awesome tutorials just like this, and lastly, don’t forget to leave a comment below answering the next question.

Do your Composites follow the Rule of Thirds or do they break the Rule of Thirds? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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