Apply the Rule of Thirds

Most people assume that the center of the frame should contain the most important element of your shot. In fact, 98 percent of all amateur photos feature the subject of the shot in dead center. For the most visually interesting shots, however, dead center is actually the least compelling location for the subject. Rather, artists and psychologists have found that the rule of thirds (Figure 2-1) ensures better visual balance.

Figure 2-1. Top: When shooting a head and shoulder portrait, frame the shot so that her eyes fall on the upper imaginary line a third of the way down the frame. Bottom: When shooting a landscape, put the horizon on the bottom-third line if you want to emphasize the sky or tall objects like mountains, trees, and buildings. Put the horizon on the upper-third line to emphasize what's on the ground, such as the people in the shot.

Imagine that the photo frame is divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The rule of thirds contends that the intersections of these lines are the strongest parts of the frame: They're where the viewer's eye naturally goes. For good composition, strive to put the most interesting parts of the picture at these four points. In general, save the center square of the frame for tight closeups. (Even then, aim for having the subject's eyes on the upper-third line.)

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