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Shooting Challenge: Rule the Thirds

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Rule the Thirds

Composition will always be part of the fun and challenge of photography. But there is a way to guarantee great compositional balance every time. It's called the "rule of thirds." And for this week's Shooting Challenge, you'll absolutely rule it.


The Challenge

Capture a photo that demonstrates and celebrates the rule of thirds.

The Technique

Even if you've never heard the phrase "rule of thirds," you've seen it in action. Heck, you've probably taken a photo using the rule of thirds before.


It's a compositional balance that, all mathematical arguments aside, is simply pleasing to our eyes and psyches.

You know when, say, take a picture of a friend standing somewhere or other. And instead of centering that friend in the frame, you kick 'em off to one side and fill the rest of the frame with the environment? That's the rule of thirds.

It breaks down an image into, guessed it, thirds. These thirds are both vertical and horizontal. And the idea is to put the subject of your photo 1/3 from any edge of the frame, and to line, say, a horizon 1/3 from the edge of the frame, too.


Many people will get extremely technical and grid out a frame into nine squares (four lines), arguing that the intersection points of these lines are the hot spots where you should stick the interesting stuff. Eyeballing it is just fine.

The Example

Our lead photo by D'Arcy Norman is a quintessential rule of thirds shot. The crane is lined up as a perfect 1/3, both vertically and horizontally, with the intersection point serving as a makeshift subject. (Note, the image is cropped for our formatting, click on it to see the full image in which the rule of thirds is balanced.)


This is only slightly more literal than you need to take the challenge, but do frame your photos this week focusing on rule of thirds composition, and whether you think the theory is the Holy Grail to good photography or not, do try to celebrate its existence this week.

The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, Jan 16th at 10AM Eastern to with "Rule" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameRule.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameRuleWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.

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The Goggles, They Got Their Star Back!

Damn. I got a really good picture of my girlfriend at Turkey Point the other day that used this completely unintentionally. I might actually enter this one.