The rule of thirds is a guideline for aligning a subject in a frame using a grid with nine equal parts. Instead of placing a subject in the center, this rule aligns the subject along a gridline. Important elements are placed close to where the lines intersect on the grid. This is done to create balance and add interest.
Rule of Thirds Tips
According to the rule, when composing a shot, the photographer or videographer should:
- align a person’s eyes to a horizontal line.
- align a person’s body to a vertical line.
- place the horizon along the top or bottom horizontal line.
- use the four power points or center of the grid for points of interest.
Want to know more? Check out Adobe’s explanation and examples here.
Advertisers Use the Rule of Thirds
Advertisers use the rule of thirds when they capture video and images for their advertisements. It is an effective way to control viewer attention. When teaching video production, advertising, or media literacy, it is important that students understand how the composition of a shot emphasizes specific details. Not only does this allow them to apply professional techniques, but it also raises awareness of how advertisers can subtly manipulate viewers.
A recent pizza advertisement used the rule of thirds to balance the composition of the shots. You or your students can watch the video ad. Study the composition of the shots. How does each shot control where the viewer looks? Are there differences in the long shot and close ups?
Rule of Thirds Activity
Do you teach a video production, media literacy, or marketing curriculum unit? If yes, take a look at TechnoAd. In TechnoAd, students become digital marketers. They learn how to plan, film, and edit video footage to create a 15-second ad to sell a product. By examining how advertisers use the rule of thirds, they learn how to apply this technique when framing their own video shots.
Challenge your students to practice shot composition:
- Have students pair up. Have one person be the actor and the other the photographer.
- Many cameras have a grid overlay. Turn the grid ON if available.
- Pretend to advertise a product. Take photos using the rule of thirds.
- Experiment with placing the subject of the image into different thirds of the frame.
- Take close ups and long shots. How does this change the composition?
- Break the rules! Position the subject right in the middle. When is that the ideal shot?