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Macro University: Composition 1, The Rule Of Thirds

When you set out to take a photo one of the first questions you ask yourself is:  what do I want to include in the frame?  The position of your subject within the frame of your photograph is called composition.  Like many aspects of photography, composition is a fairly easy concept to understand but can be extremely difficult to master. Good composition is one of the factors that can help to separate a great photograph from one that is merely good. Composition can also be a big part of what defines your style.

 

This grid shows what the Rule Of Thirds look like in action.

This grid shows what the Rule Of Thirds look like in action.  You can place the subject on the lines across the frame or at one of the interesting points.

 

One of the first things new students learn in their intro to photography class is something called the Rule of Thirds.   So, what is this “Rule” and why does it matter?  The Rule Of Thirds creates a more visually appealing image by dividing the frame into thirds vertically,horizontally or both.  It is a very simple guide that will help you to create better images.  It can also help guide the viewer’s eye through the image.

 

This images was composed so the the cone took u the left 2/3 of the image leaving the right third as soft background creating a pleasing composition.

This images was composed so the the cone took up the left 2/3 of the image leaving the right third as soft background creating a pleasing composition.

 

The Rule of Thirds can be applied to any type of image but since this is a site dedicated to close-up and macro photography let’s take a look at how we can apply this principal to our tiny subjects.  Macro images tend to have a very full frame by nature.  With the full frame it can be a challenge to use the Rule Of Thirds but as you will see there are still many applications in the world of macro photography. It is also important to remember that although the Rule of Thirds can be a useful tool when you’re composing your images, it is by no means an absolute rule.  If you want to place your subject in the center of the image or way off to one side that is your artistic liberty to do so!

Some of the common subjects we work with in the world of macro photography are flowers and insects.  Lets take a look at an example from each.  In the tulip image below,  I wanted to have a very specific part of the stamen as the focus point.  This left me with a large portion of the image out of focus making it a great image to us the Rule Of Thirds.  With a small portion of the image in focus the composition becomes increasingly critical to making the image work.

 

The focus point of this image is in the intersection in the upper left grid.

The focus point of this image is in the intersection in the upper left grid.

 

The Bees head and bulk of the body is on the left vertical line.

The Bees head and bulk of the body is on the left vertical line.

For the image above I wanted to include more context about the life and environment of the bee.  By having more items included in the image I was able to justify the bee to one side of the image making good use of this concept in the process.

We all have images we take where the composition is not what we had hoped.  By cropping your image using the Rule Of Thirds you can take a shot with a less than pleasing composition and turn it into something much more interesting.  Below you can see exactly this in the photo of the Tomato Caterpillar.

In this unclouded image I had the image more center focused than I would have liked.

In the original image I thought the caterpillar’s head was a little too close to the center.

 

By capping the image to recompose the image I was able to create a much nicer image.

By cropping to recompose the image I was able to create a much more interesting photograph.

The Rule of Thirds can be a simple, yet powerful tool that can be used to take your photography to the next  level.  So, the next time you head out to shoot, keep the Rule of Thirds in mind and  start playing around.  Try composing your images using various points or lines in the grid to see what you can come up with.  Try the same subject multiple ways.  Share your results with us over at on of our social media communities, hashtag #CUPruleofthirds.

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