Using the Rule of Thirds to Take Better Photos

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Good morning! Today we will be talking about the “rule of thirds” in photography, but…

Before we begin: In all honesty, as this blog has evolved over time, I’ve still been a bit hesitant to offer tips and advice and “how-to’s”…because I thought, someone should either be well-versed (even an expert) and confident in a given topic before they teach someone else about it. But as I’ve been mulling this over, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to mistakenly brag on myself or consider myself an expert on a topic in order to offer advice. We’re all friends here. This is a community! Just as I love hearing your input on recipe tweaks or suggestions of where to travel, I’m going to take a step in this direction today by offering you little, cheerful nuggets of photography advice. Just as a friend of yours may excitedly explain to you how she discovered a new outfit or totally Pinterest-y cleaning tip, imagine me sitting across the table from you at a coffeeshop, sharing the fun little things I’ve discovered! So here you have it – here’s what works for me – photography tips that are simple and easy to apply! Here’s today’s:

Rule of Thirds

When I first heard this tip several years ago, it blew my mind! What?! Yes! I thought. Finally, an easy “trick” I can apply right away! I can do that! 🙂 This trick has to do with where your eye is drawn to on any given photo. Pictures are not mean to just be a flat, boring, two-dimensional snapshot! We want to create a sense of movement or at least some 3-D depth!! 🙂 For some reason, we tend to see pictures as more aesthetically pleasing when a focal point or figure is placed at the “crosshairs” of certain imaginary lines. Which lines?

When you’re looking through your camera (or looking at your iPhone screen), imagine your photo is divided up with 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines. Essentially, your photo would look like it is split up into 9 equal pieces. The awesome thing is that many cameras and phones now days have an option to show this gridline! Now, try adjusting your angle/direction until you’ve got your focal point sitting at one of the intersections of those lines. That picture will probably look better than hurriedly pointing and shooting. The days of everything being perfectly centered are gone!

This rule can also be applied in terms of the space filled in the picture. I take a TON of landscape/sunrise/sunset/road shots…which means that besides a lone road, or the sun, there isn’t a lot technically going on in the picture. For sunrise shots, to maintain visual interest, I usually strive to fill the bottom 1/3 of the photo with the land, and leave the remaining two-thirds as sky. I love this effect.

Here are 4 examples for you, with explanations:

1 // Necklace


If you’ll look at the grid overlay on the picture below, I obviously didn’t line up an imaginary grid perfectly where my lines cross…but my focal point (the necklace) is still close enough to that top right intersection that you find your eyes drawn not to the hair, not to the person’s shoulder, but drawn to that little delicate necklace!

rule of thirds necklace

2 // Ski hill

ski hill in Minnesota

In this shot, I wanted to focus on 2 different elements. First, I wanted to keep the tall, closer trees mostly in the left third of the shot. Second, I wanted to keep the actual land (ski hill) in the bottom third of the shot. It kind of combines to give you a sense of how tall and how wide the ski hill was up there!

Ski hill rule of thirds

3 // Sunset-road shot

sunset on a country road

I wanted the focus of this photo to be the dusty road heading off into the breathtaking sunset. You can see that the land takes up roughly the bottom two-thirds of the picture. Also, the point where the sun sets (and the road disappears) is very close to the upper left intersection of the lines. That keeps your eye looking up and drawn towards the sunset, and gives a much better effect than simply centering the sun.

Road sunset rule of thirds

4 // Vertical walking-in-a-field pic

walking in a farm field pic

The way the (imaginary) lines cross on my handsome husband cause your eye to look up and to the right. This gets you to mentally follow behind him and peer ahead at where he is walking. (Hint: this picture was taken on one of our Tractor Dates.. 😉 )

Walking farm field picture thirds

There you have it, friends! This post was such a blast to write. 🙂 It forced me to really rethink and analyze why I shoot photos the way I do. I’d love to hear if this is helpful to you in any way. In the meantime, stay tuned for more photo tips in upcoming posts!

Are you a fan of photography? What little tips do you keep in mind as you snap away?

** Note: all photos in this post were taken with an iPhone, though I absolutely love my Canon! 🙂


  1. As I was reading through this and looking at your gorgeous photos, I was wondering what kind of camera you use. (I’m currently in the market for a new one.) I use my iPhone a lot for photography and this post just proves how beautiful cell phone photography can be. 🙂

    1. Hi Crystal!! Thanks so much. 🙂 I’m glad you like my pictures – and even this post! I have a Canon EOS Rebel T5i ! Although I did buy another lens for more landscape-type shots, I use the “kit lens” that came with the camera for my food photography – like the pictures in my Mini Reuben Sandwiches post. Hope that helps some!

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