In this day and age, anyone with a cell phone and a Facebook or Instagram account can claim to be a published photographer. On occasion those fellow photographers will ask for advice to improve their photography.
While this article is not intended to be of use to trained photographers, it is hoped that it will be an encouragement to Facebook/Instagram photographers to up their game and, perhaps, realize there is more to photography than a sweet selfie!
One of the shortcomings with modern photographers is a lack of knowledge of basic art/photography composition theory. One of the tools of composition any photographer needs to have a grasp on is the Rule of Thirds.
If you have ever shot a camera with a grid on the viewer, this is to assist in photo composition using the Rule of Thirds where the scene in the viewer is broken down into nine separate sections by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines that are spread across the scene by thirds.
By the Rule of Thirds, horizon splits ( where the sand and water interact, where the water and the sky meet) are placed on/near the horizontal thirds. Vertical objects, such as trees, are placed on the the vertical thirds.
Similarly, aspects of the scene to which you want to draw attention (the sunset, eyes, a bird in flight, etc.) would be put near/on the intersections of the lines which create four major focal points. This is not to say you need an object of interest on each of these intersections, as that could be too busy. Rather that they are the hot spots of focus and the eye is, by nature or nurture, drawn to those points and as a photographer you can use those points to your advantage to create a more interesting scene.
There is actually a cultural/psychological basis for this rule in Western Culture. From an early age we are taught to read from left to right and top to bottom. This trains the eyes to look towards the top left, then the top right, then on to lower left and out of the scene via the bottom right in a “Z” pattern. So the mind is trained to look at these major focal points as part of viewing any document or scene.
While rules are made to be broken, using the Rule of Thirds will help a beginning photographer set up a more interesting scene than the basic centered selfie.
John N. Collins was an assistant to award winning Mardi Gras, Syndey Byrd on Facebook who was trained by one of the world’s top ten photographers, Ernst Haas. For more about National Art Examiner John N. Collins, find him on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook.