The Rule of Thirds is an excellent guide to composing images. However, be careful not to lean too heavily on the rule to make your composition. As my mentor, Robin Grigg-Woods, in her Art Basics program says, “use thirds as a tool, not a rule.”
The Rule of Thirds is useful to situate the focal point in your image. Once in place, make sure other factors in the frame assist the focal point, and not distract from it.
To illustrate the point, below are some of my editing decisions that begin with the Rule of Thirds and then work towards making the focal point stronger:
Yoga on Playa Serena
The sky was socked-in clouds on this rainy season day in Panama. It made for a grey day. Thankfully Anne-Marie’s (the best yoga teacher I have come across) dress was as colourful as her personality. My focal point is Anne-Marie. The assist here is the color saturation in her clothing and the log that underlines her, which acts as a pointer. The log also has warm colors that will work for me. The thirds line worked beautifully on her outstretched leg.
While the original image was dark and flat. I will use my assists to strengthen the focal point. In editing, I first increased overall exposure and saturation. Next, I masked off the log and Anne-Marie. That allowed me to slightly up the saturation in Anne-Marie’s clothing and bring out the yellows in the log. Warm colors advance in an image, so this helps bring the focal point forward. Her pointing leg echoes the buildings. They are repeating lines that draw the eye upwards to the sky, which I feel is a supporting element in this scene. To make the repeating pattern work better, I removed some other distractions. Maybe you will notice what is gone.
Green Meets Purple
My focal point here are the green sepal points that connect to the flower.
Some of the distracting elements were yellow parts of the sepal that were in focus, a light spot that is a bit too bright, and a rough edge on the petal to the left. Warm colors, bright spots, and areas that are in focus attract the eye. I want the green points to stand out. So, here I worked to tame the areas that are pulling attention.
One final point about the Rule of Thirds. It is meant to create an imbalance. A tension, that makes the image more energetically dynamic.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my approach to editing these images, and what your approach might be.