Is the Rule of Thirds Really All That It's Cracked Up to Be?
One of the first concepts you learn about when studying aesthetic theory is the rule of thirds, but is it really as beneficial to composition as you think?
According to videographer/fine art photographer Tavis Leaf Glover, not really. In this video, he talks about 10 myths about the benefits of the rule of thirds, introducing image makers to different compositional techniques, as well as explaining how the rule of thirds often leads us to eventually come to a creative plateau.
Now, whether or not you agree with Glover's claim that the rule of thirds is detrimental to composition, he does talk about a lot of fantastic advanced techniques that you may have never heard of before, namely those of dynamic symmetry and gestalt psychology.
He breaks down one of famed photographer Annie Leibovitz's photographs in this blog post, explaining how she used several compositional techniques to create a shot of 10 female celebrities.
Here's a list of techniques Glover mentions. (If you want to know more about each of these techniques, check out Glover's blog post here.)
- Root 4 Rectangle
- Rebated Square
- 90 degree
- Figure Ground Relationship
- Black and White Blur
- Greatest Area of Contrast
- Edge Flicker
Personally, I disagree with Glover's claim that the rule of thirds is a "flawed and lazy tool for composition." I don't think that it must "die a slow and painful death," because I think it's a great place for beginners to start working on their craft. I think it's a great place to start composing your images. Is it the best choice every time? No. Will it lead to stellar images every time? Not necessarily. But the more you learn about composition, including the techniques Glover mentions in his video, the better equipped you'll be when you begin to plan your shots.
The more you learn, the better you'll be. So yeah, learn the rule of thirds. Use it to compose your images. But realize that it's not the only technique out there. Push yourself in your art and find new ways to compose images — I think, in the end, that's the takeaway.
What do you think about the rule of thirds? Do you use it to compose your images or do you use one of the other techniques Glover mentions? (Or do you rely purely on your gut?)