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Composition is the underlying basis of all artwork, regardless of the medium it is created in. From the early Renaissance masters to modern day photographers, every artist uses it in order to create visually compelling images. However, composition is a vast subject, and in this article I am thinking of covering the basics of the most famous and widely used technique of composition — the ”Rule of Thirds”.

You can use the rule of thirds by dividing your medium into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. By doing this, you create a grid of nine rectangles and four intersections. Once you have the imaginary grid, you position your primary element of a painting or photo on one of the intersections, thus creating a composition that is interesting to look at, and generally agreed to be aesthetic.

The rule of thirds is widely used in design and photography circles due to its use by the Renaissance masters and its rough relationship to the golden ratio. Dividing a medium with the rule of thirds results in a ratio of 0.666 while the golden ratio is 0.618, but the users of this technique may have decided that the simplicity of its application compensated for its rough approximation.

In case the primary element is so strong that it imbalances your composition, you can try placing it in the upper center rectangles rather than on the intersections. If this doesn’t work because the surrounding elements don’t reinforce your primary element, you can try using the rule of thirds and adding a secondary element — or counterpoint — to the opposing intersection of the primary element.

In case if you have a strong vertical element — like a tree, a building or a tower — it is a common practice to align the element with one of the grid lines of corresponding orientation.

 

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Now that you know about it, you will notice it everywhere around you. Next time you see a commercial, an animation, or a photo, check for the rule of thirds — you will find it more often than not.

Have fun with it!