Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds guideline for off-center subject placement is the traditional way to create a well-balanced pciture and has been used by painters for centuries. The center of any picture is not a satisfying resting place for the eye, and a central composition is static, not dynamic.  To follow the rule of thirds, imagine that your camera's viewing screen is etched with grid lines, resembling a tic tac toe game. As you view the scene--be it a snow-covered tree, a distant lion on a plain, or a prarie farmhouse--place the subject at one of the intersecting points.  This technique works equally well with a horizintal or a vertical framing and is far more effective than a dead center, bull's-eye composition. Here are a few eamples to consider when composing in this manner.

Dramatic skies

Emphasize dramatic skies by placing the horizon low in the fram, along the lower line in your imaginary grid. If the sky is dull, but important to the story, place it at the higher line.

Large subject

In a close-up portrait, for example, place the most important subject element--the closest eye, perhaps--at an intersecting point in the frame.  This should be one of the two top points so as to avoid excessive space above the subject.

Moving subject

Leave space for a moving subject to "travel into"; if it's an animate subject at rest--such as an animal or person--leave space for it to gaze into if it is not looking into the lens.

Left to Right

In Western cultrues we read from left to right and also tend to scan a picture the same way.For this reason, it is usually appropriate to place the primary subject closer to the left side of the frame.  If the subject is in the exact center, we are less likely to explore the other areas. You may want to center the subject first for focusing, but then recompose; with most auto-focus cameras, slight pressure on the shutter-release button will lock and hold focus.

Move the subject

If you can, move the subject to a more appropriate spot in order to carry out any of the previous suggestions. Otherwise simply move yourself and the camera. That may mean moving to the left a few feet, shooting from ground level, or driving a few miles to a more appropriate vantage point.

Off Center Composition

In any off-center composition with a small center of interest, there will be some empty space in the frame. Compose th eimage so that there is something of interest, --or a secondary, perhaps more distant subject-- to satisfy the view's eye as it explores the picture. If you want to emphasize isolation, leave the space empty.

At the very least, this "rule" will help you begin to look more closely at the relationship between your subject and the frame around it.  Basically, it is a decision you will make to purposely place the subject in a position that makes the image more interesting.r