Super mom’s guide to the rule of thirds

Using the age-old artistic rule of thirds will help you take more creative shots of your beautiful family.

Family photo using rule of thirds

The Rule of Thirds, also known as the Golden Mean or the Golden Ratio, is used in many aspects of art, including photography. Following the rule assures artistic results that are pleasing to the eye.

“The rule of thirds is an imaginary grid that every photographer keeps in mind while shooting,” says Elizabeth Sypa of Sypa Photography. And using the rule of thirds when you take pictures of your children tends to produce more interesting results than always centering them or placing them directly in front of a piece of scenery.

“The Ancient Egyptians figured this out ages ago, and they were definitely on to something,” says Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes of MKC Photography. “Never center your children in the shot, but rather keep the focus on the upper, lower, or left/right third of the photograph.”

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Three rows of three

Expert tip: Turn the rule of thirds grid on in your camera. This will make shooting on the third a cinch! –Dustin Bryson,

Christina Sleeper, a professional media organizer in LA, describes the rule of thirds like a good game of Tic-Tac-Toe. “There is an imaginary grid of nine squares – three rows of three – on each picture you take,” explains Sleeper. “Placing your subject into one of these rows of squares – be in top, middle or bottom, left, right or middle – makes it more interesting for the eye to view.”

“Imagine looking through the viewfinder of your camera,” adds Sypa. “Then, in your mind, break down the entire image into nine equal parts consisting of two equally spaced horizontal and two vertical lines.

“The theory,” Sypa explains, “is that if you place points of interest — such as your children, pets or flowers — in the intersections or along the lines of the ‘grid’ that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally.”

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Breaking the rules

“Rules were made to be broken,” says Sypa. “Photography is about creating something that is your own, rules or not. It’s about personally getting a feeling from what your shooting and the way it makes you feel.”

Christie Clancy of clancy214photography agrees. “A lot of textbook guidelines say to use the rule of thirds for photos. To cut that photo into three pieces — in your eye, not literally — and balance it out,” says Clancy. “Don’t feel restricted by that. Some of the most interesting photos are a little off!”

More mom-friendly photo tips

Mom’s guide to photoshopping pictures
DSLR photography tips for beginner moms
Keeping kids happy during photo shoots


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