The ‘Rule Of Thirds’ is a guiding principle for framing a shot in both video and photography. Understanding both when to use it and when to break it will make your shots much better.
The rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the first things a photographer or cinematographer learns. Mastering it will help you take better shots whether you are filming yourself, others within your business or starting out as a video producer.
Imagine everything your camera sees is split into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Like the image opposite you will end up with 9 identical rectangles. Each of these is a potential location for something in the image.
The nine rectangles are useful but it is the 4 intersections that are key. Positioning objects of interest or focus on these points draws the eye towards them and creates a pleasant looking image.
The rule of thirds in action
This example places the finger on the first vertical third. Drawing attention to it.
Here the figure is on the second vertical third. The head of the figure is on the bottom right intersection and the sun in the middle of the top third. The combination creates a striking image that allows plenty of the scenery to be seen.
Even within animation the rule can apply. Here the figure appears on the second third.
Take a look at the following examples with the rule of thirds in mind and work out why the framing works.
Breaking the rules
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” – Pablo Picasso
Breaking rules once you have them ingrained is difficult but can create striking images. Mike Betts wrote a fantastic article that explores different ways you can break the rule of thirds for a dramatic and eye-catching effect.
For many of my videos on social media I position myself centrally in the frame. The reason I do this is that when people are scrolling through their social media feed their eyes are already centrally placed. It means that my videos are more likely to get noticed.
That being said you will notice that the centre of my face is on the first horizontal line.