The rule of thirds is a compositional rule that’s not only prevalent in photography, but also painting, design and any other visual art.
It’s based upon the idea that an image looks better if a grid of nine squares, three by three, is placed over it and used to determine where certain subjects or focal points sit.
In this way, instead of putting your subject in the centre of the image, which is a common pitfall of many beginners, you should put it along the lines themselves and if possible at the points where the lines meet.
There are many ideas as to why following this rule of thumb makes for better final results. It certainly makes photos look generally more balanced and following the rule when taking photos of landscapes means you don’t cut the view in half with the horizon. It’s also been suggested that our eyes don’t naturally look into the centre of a photograph first, which is why it could look messy and a little out of place.
For whatever reason, it’s a popular rule, one of the first things taught to photography students and wheeled out by many amateurs who claim to know what they’re talking about!
But how can you apply it using your mobile device?
As you improve and start ‘thinking in thirds’ when you take photographs, you’ll be able to visualise the lines and their intersections yourself. However, until then, you’ll need the aid of an app to be able to see them clearly and get the best possible results.
A lot of normal photo applications with filters and effects have grids already integrated into their camera functions, here’s a list of some of our favourites:
- Magic Hour
- 100 Cameras in One - this app let’s you apply a rule of thirds grid and a golden ratio grid.
There are also some applications designed to help you visualise all kinds of different grids and get the best composition for your photographs. These include:
- GCamera - Multi Grid Finder
- Camera Pro - Live Histogram
- Composition Essentials from QuickPro - a little too pricey.
There are obviously many options for you to edit photographs later in order to ‘force’ them onto a grid, so you can use your favourite editing app to crop, move, rotate and flip until you get it right, we recommend Adobe Photoshop Express for quick and easy on-the-go editing.
The thing to remember when learning about composition and particularly the popular rule of thirds is that rules are made to be broken, so don’t be put off if a great shot doesn’t quite fit the mould!