The Rule Of Thirds — What’s That? A Lesson From Working At A TV Station

My first day on the job at the TV station KOMU, I was 18 years old. I was a freshman at Mizzou, majoring in Broadcast Journalism. I wanted to get my foot in the door, so I applied for a cameraperson position for the morning show “Pepper & Friends.”

I had no experience using such a huge, movable, expensive camera. It was taller than me — with huge wires protruding out the back that would get dragged along with it as you wheeled the camera around. Here’s what they looked like — I snapped this shot while I worked there:

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I learned a lot at the TV station. I started doing the cameras, then moved on to make the show’s graphics, and by my Sophomore year, I was on-air crew reporting in the field.

But on that first day, when I showed up and was being taught how to use this ginormous camera — the very first thing I learned was the rule of thirds. And it was actually a co-worker who taught it to me!

It’s one of the first, if not the first thing you learn in photography and videography: The Rule of Thirds.

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All images can be broken down into thirds — both horizontally and vertically. You’ll see nine sections cut out on our cute picture of Bella above. This is what the Rule of Thirds grid looks like.

People’s eyes naturally gravitate to those outer corners — not the middle of the photo.

This has been proven with various studies — and using the Rule of Thirds and positioning your subject in a place where eyes naturally follow just makes sense, and in turn, makes your photo flow.

So, there are FOUR places you can place subjects in photos to follow this rule.

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You can see this picture of Bella follows the rule — as she’s off-center and placed in one of those four important areas of a photo. Your eyes naturally go to her when you look at the photo.

Same below. I can guarantee you either looked at the window, chandelier, hallway, or couple at the bottom first. It’s because they line up with the grid.

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I learned this skill at the TV station when working behind the cameras — and it was one of the first things taught in class when I entered into the School of Journalism my junior year at Mizzou.

So, this is a great rule for photographers — beginner, intermediate, professional.

But, we’re artists, and we don’t put ourselves in a box. Rules are absolutely meant to be broken. So, you don’t have to follow the Rule of Thirds in every shot. But, if you do stray — make sure it has purpose!

Want to learn more? Here’s more in our “How To” series!

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