Well, it’s a new month! Happy March, everyone! We have so much to look forward to, most notably Shamrock Fest 2011 and SPRING. I’d like to kick off this month with my favorite basic tip that will improve both your professional and everyday photographs.
The first rule my b&w film photography teacher taught me was the rule of thirds. Once you understand what it is and how to use it, the decision to make your pictures more interesting will no longer be conscious, it will just come naturally.
The rule of thirds is the imaginary tic tac toe board that you lay across the plane of a photograph. The points of intersection on this board should overlap the points of the picture at which you wish to draw the viewer’s eye. I’ll use an example from my own photography. This picture comes from the first still life photoshoot that I ever did; it was a tribute to my grandfather’s stint in the Korean War and his dedication to my grandmother while he was abroad; it is entitled War Memorabilia.
Here is the photograph as it was taken, using the rule of thirds (this is a screen capture from my account with Photoshop Express; I am a broke college student and this is the best free alternative to Photoshop that I know of):
The picture is divided using the grid, with the intersecting points marked within the four white circles. I wanted the main focus of the image to be the charms of the necklace. By not putting the main object in the center of the image, it forces the viewer’s eye to travel around the image. When writing a poem or essay or book, you don’t just put your bottom line right out there, this isn’t an intense business negotiation, it’s art. Make the viewer do some work and force them to find information outside of the obvious center.
In this cropped picture below, the charms are placed in the center of the image:
Oh wow. I just got all claustrophobic. There is no room to breathe here.
Because the subject is dead smack in the middle, it’s easy to get what you came for and move along. There is nothing interesting about this picture. In the previous photograph, there was more room to explore and analyze parts of the image such as the text; here, none of the text is legible so it has lost its significance in the scheme of the picture.
I find that this technique is especially useful when taking snapshots with friends. Try this: next time when taking a picture with/of your friends, zoom out, move the lens away from the face. Get some background in there to give the viewers more information; they probably already know what you look like if they’re looking at your pictures, so spice it up.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful image, courtesy of Mr. Rob Gardiner, that truly depicts the rule of thirds at its finest.