When it comes to composing great-looking photos, there’s a simple, effective rule that’s been popular with artists for centuries – the rule of thirds. Here’s how it works…

The rule of thirds is one of the easiest and most basic rules of visual composition to use, but it’s also highly effective. Artists of all types (from beginners to experts) use this way of working to guide their audience’s eye around their pictures, and you can trace its history back through the ages.

It works like this: imagine your camera’s viewfinder or viewscreen is split up into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The four places where these lines cross represent ‘compositional hot spots’ where you should try to place the main subject of your photo for maximum impact. That could be a person’s face in a portrait; a lone hilltop house in a landscape picture; or a particularly colorful piece of detail in a street scene.

© Richard Vogel

Furthermore, straight edges in a scene can be aligned along the imaginary thirds lines themselves – for example the horizon in a landscape. Rather than having this in the middle of the frame, try placing it along a bottom or top ‘thirds line’, so that the picture is dominated by the sky or by the ground in front of you.

  • Learn photography with Fujifilm, rule of thirds© Mat Rick
  • Learn photography with Fujifilm, rule of thirds© Mat Rick

The rule of thirds also works when you shoot with your camera upright, and when you select a different frame shape, like square.

© Seth K Hughes

In fact, you don’t have to imagine these thirds lines, as your camera can display them in its viewfinder or on its viewscreen. To turn these on:

STEP 1: Press MENU OK and navigate to the SET UP menu.


STEP 3: Scroll down the list of options and check FRAMING GUIDELINE by pressing MENU OK.

Now you’ll see your rule-of-thirds lines when you shoot.

Eventually, using the rule of thirds will become so instinctive you won’t need the camera’s lines turned on, but while you’re getting used to shooting in this way, this is an invaluable way to work.

Your Next Steps

  • CHALLENGE This week, make some time to get out there and shoot pictures that use the rule of thirds. Do it with your camera’s grid lines on, and then switch them off so that you start to do this naturally. Post your five best pictures to social media with the hashtags #MyFujifilmLegacy and #ruleofthirds. You can also submit your work here for a chance to be featured on our social media channels
  •   WATCH Check out our video below to learn more about the rule of thirds

Header image © Ryan Budhu