Many call the "rule of thirds" the perfect way to compose an image. You may disagree, but these 108 photos from this week's Shooting Challenge won't be called wrong without a fight.

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Winner - Rows

The clean lines of rowing is why I chose it as my subject for the Rule of Thirds Challenge. This photo was taken from Christ Church meadow at the University of Oxford in England. I envisioned having strong horizontal lines, which are the boat and the shadow line. More subtly, what I consider to be the focal point of the image (though others may disagree) is the left-most athlete in the glare of the reflection, which is placed on the left-most vertical thirds line. Despite having used guide lines in Photoshop to perfectly place the lines when cropping, the photo does not look as textbook as I expected, but it was more visually appealing to me than some other more obvious crops and photos that I tried using The Rule. Canon 550D, Canon EF 50 mm lens
50 mm, f/3.5, 1/4000 sec, ISO 100
-Jeannie Moulton

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Katie and Hailey

On a Tuesday night, Katie found out the grim news that her sister (who's husband was heading over to Afghanistan) was moving herself and her two-year-old daughter, Hailey, out of state. Two years ago, Katie's sister found herself pregnant at 18. As the oldest of the family by 12 years, Katie stepped up to help her sister care for the beautiful flaxen-haired child. Having no children of her own, Katie flourished as Hailey's aunt. Katie, a photographer herself, not only spent time helping her sister raise Hailey, she found a muse in the little girl and spent hours photographing her angelic face. When Katie found out Hailey and her sister were moving out of state, she knew she needed someone to capture their special bond and that is when I received the panicked phone call asking for my help. The two would be leaving on that Friday and there was no time to waste. I thought bringing Hailey to the train museum would keep her occupied as well as be an appropriate backdrop. So, with my antique suitcases in tow, I met the two blonde beauties for their final photo shoot. Unfortunately, it was a cold and windy day and there was no time to reschedule. Not knowing if it was the weather or the intuition of my young model feeling the sadness in her aunt, Hailey (who can usually light up a room with her smile) could not be coaxed into a grin. When Hailey finally fell apart, Katie went to comfort her as I snapped this picture. According to Katie, there were no words to describe how she felt when she viewed this image—she was overcome with emotion. As you can see, the 1/3 rule helps the viewer to be drawn to the "Mother and Child". Nikon D300S,70-200 f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/250 sec, photo taken at the Wantaugh Railroad Museum in Wantaugh, NY.
- Kimberly Mutorule

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Lifeguard Tower

Once I read this shooting Challenge, I knew exactly where I wanted to head out for the shot. I've capture a shot similar to this one, but I love the colors in this one even more than the last time. The Rule of thirds is one of my favorite, and i often find myself shooting in this manner. I traveled to Santa Monica and walked the beach searching for the perfect guard tower. I had about 20 minutes of sunlight when I came across my chosen tower, about a mile south of the pier, which stood atop a little hill. I used the horizon as a reference for the lateral, and estimated a center point from the tower for the horizontal. I didn't throw down any sticks, and just eye'd this one. I didn't do any post on this, either. Shot with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR on 58mm lens
-Stanton Hunter

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Take Off

I am a new D5100 owner and am already loving it. Giz was a great help in making my first real SLR commitments. Many thanks. For this shot I drove to my local international airport and DID NOT *cough*cough* hop ANY fences or barbed wire to get near said airport's runway for a clear line of sight.

The photo is out of focus. A friend of mine had borrowed the camera only the day before and had reassigned my AE-L / AE-F key and never bothered to tell me. Hearing the AF motor spool with no lock upon half shutter caused me to immediately fear the worst. So, rather than miss the moment and pause to troubleshoot I switched to manual focus and took the shot with a frantic hand fondling the focus ring. It was not until later that I checked all of the changed settings. Noob error.

All in all I had a nice afternoon, capturing airplanes and not the attention of airport security. Camera: Nikon D5100, Nikkor 55-200 VR, 1/1000 s, f/5.6, ISO 400
- David Bulfin

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Cold Crop

The following shot pretty much follows the specific rule and benefits a bit from some heat shimmer/cooling on a truly frigid day. Varied the crop to test the rule, many times - but the small white window only had some narrative value when the rule was applied. Canon 5D Mark II - F22, 400 mm zoom and a tad too high ISO 800 ;-)
-Daniel Jones

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Composed From a Moving Car

I bought a DLSR 3 weeks ago and was all fired up to see what its capable of. On a lazy night when there were no patients in ER, I was browsing some tips and tricks on photography. That's when a buddy of mine suggested to check out gizmodo.com for shooting challenges. Couldn't try the macro challenge as I had no macro lens. Turns out I didn't need one. So determined to participate in the current challenge me and my girlfriend headed riverside in a car. We stopped at the signal and that's when I saw this composition. Before I could even open the lens cover we started moving. Refusing to give up, I turned the on camera and dia clicked it. Yes, out of a moving car! Few experiments in Photoshop and I was happy. Canon 60D with18-135mm. ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/800 sec.
- Shriharsha Kallahalli

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Lifeguard Tower II

I was driving by the beach having trouble thinking of a neat Thirds shot when I saw how flat the ocean was and the lifeguard tower. I had been meaning to take an interesting shot of that particular scene and thought it would be cool to leave a little ocean for the eye to catch as a bottom and focus on the tall left-hand tower. Taken on an iPhone 4 (HDR), HDR merged in Pro HDR and contrast/brightness edited, Edited for brightness in Camera+
-Jack Kelly

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

No Skateboarding

I used Nikon D3000 to take this photograph. I had my 18-55mm lens with me and the iso was set at 1600. I took the picture at Washington square park in NY.
-Reshav Malla

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Campanile

Walking to my dorm in the evening, I passed Berkeley's beloved Campanile and noticed the wonderful hue it took on as the sun was setting. The weather was perfect, and I couldn't have expected a better turnout! Iso 64 4.3mm f/2.8 iPhone 4S camera
- Matt Ginelli

108 Photos With Perfect Compositional Balance, Supposedly

Padre Island

While my girlfriend and I were goofing around with light painting on a camping trip at Padre Island National Seashore we were awestruck as an orange glowing moon began to appear over the horizon to the east. The image was taken with a Canon T2i, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II. With the focal length at 23, and using the live viewfinder and digital zoom to focus the stars, ISO 800 and a 6 second exposure yielded this image. ISO 800 greatly reduced the noise from ISO 1600, and a 6 second exposure left a nice effect on the water where is is smoothed but you can also still make out waves.
-Bryce Harlow

For as authoritative as the "rule" of thirds may sound, I do think it's best used more as a general guide than a way of life—a means to capture a foolproof horizon, or frame a subject when nothing else is working quite right.

Though I will say, while lot of the photos in the galleries below were excellent shots, I'd argue they'd be even better if they followed the rule a bit more literally. Actually, I think Padre Island, directly above, is a perfect example of this idea. The horizon follows the rule pretty closely, but the moon does not. It's a beautiful and unique photo, but I can't help but wish the light was nudged to the right, just a tad, to be a perfect third...or...hmm...maybe not...the more I look at it, the less I want anything about it to change.

You'll find the full galleries below and the large shots on flickr.

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a way to give $1 to a good cause every day.

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