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Story Xperiential: The Rule of Thirds and Why We Use It?

The rule of thirds is a concept that has been around since the late 1700s. In the midst of the Age of Enlightenment, artists debated the balance between warm and cold colors and how much each element should occupy within a painting. The consensus was; one-third should be for land and water, and two-thirds should be for air and sky. Hence, the name.

In essence, the rule of thirds follows the principle that an image should be imagined to be divided into a nine-part grid, by drawing two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Important compositional elements (focal point(s) of your image, horizon lines, etc.) should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Aligning a subject with these points will create more tension, energy and interest in an image or composition.

Image by Mitch Leeuwe

People read text from top to bottom, and depending on where you are from left to right or right to left. Human eyes usually go to one of the intersection points rather than the center of the picture because of this. As a result, the bottom intersections of an image will be the most eye drawing and the upper intersections will most likely be overlooked.

Image by Mitch Leeuwe

Our minds have adapted to looking for shapes and patterns, and the connections or lines created by the rule of thirds guides our eyes and creates movement, balance, and direction, helping to make sense of the composition; essentially taking a viewer on a visual tour of the image.

Toro by AJ Cho & Alia Zeid (Story Xperiential Best Storyreel: Adult winner)

Though it is a “rule” it should be used as a guide. You can utilize horizontal, vertical and/or diagonal lines. By playing with placement of the main point of interest, and the secondary or tertiary ones on intersecting points, you can make use of the empty space to draw the eye to a specific part or path.

Don’t be afraid to play around with your image to find the dynamic and balanced composition you are after.


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