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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The rule of thirds, or fourths, or fifths even!


Whenever my wife sees a picture like this of mine she always has some comment to make. Usually it's something along the lines of "That is such a typical you composition".

Up until a couple of years ago I used to run photography tours at a lovely luxury resort up in Port Douglas called Thala Beach Lodge.

One day I had a gentleman from the US on tour who was very disconcerted that I never seemed to use the rule of thirds but always what he called the rule of fifths.

In other words I tend to stick things way off at the edge of the frame.

You see the rule of thirds says that when we compose our pictures we should mentally divide our frame up like a noughts and crosses (or tick tack toe depending on where you live) board. Where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect is supposed to be the most interesting part of the frame, and that's where you should stick something of interest.

Only somewhere along the lines (no pun intended!) I must have got confused about how to divide up the viewfinder. Because I always seem to be sticking things way off towards the far edge of the frame - much farther than is recommended in the rule book. :)

I guess if there's something to take away from this it is that by keeping your subject out of the middle of the frame you encourage the eye to look around the rest of the frame, so it's often a good idea to keep your subject out of the middle of the picture.


Which is why this picture should be a big no-no. I have the subject right smack bang in the middle of the picture.

And yet, for some inexplicable reason, your eye still looks around the rest of the frame. Because of the contrast of the red in the middle of all that yellow your eye goes straight there. But then because we crave that contrast we look around the rest of the picture to see if there's any more red.

So as a rule I tend to leave things out of the middle of the frame but every so often I stick it there when I think the image calls for it. The first image was taken in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the second image was taken in the little town of Tokachigawa in Hokkaido, Japan.

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