Roll #7: The Rule of Thirds

Why you are doing this assignment

When people make photos, they have a natural urge place the most important object right in the center. If it is a portrait, the most important point is the eye or eyes. If it is a more distant  shot of, say, a surfer, then of course the person is the most important point. We call this point the “center of interest.” However, it is usually a bad idea to put the center of interest in the center of the photo. Instead, we place it near (but not in) one of the four corners.

When we make a landscape shot, the tendency is also to split the frame with the horizon running right through the center of the image. It is usually a better idea to place the horizon at the 2/3 line above the center, or at the 1/3 line below the center.

How to do this assignment

Try out the rule of thirds. (Actually itʻs not a rule, but just a guideline, a suggestion that photographers ignore under some circumstances.) Decide what is the most important point in your image (the center of interest), and place that point near the upper or lower right corner, or near the upper or lower left corner. In other words, DO NOT place it in the center OR on the horizontal or vertical lines that cross the center of the frame.

What to shoot

Go to one or two places and make images that capture their “feeling.”  We talk about this kind of image as capturing a “sense of place,” something of what people experience when they are there. This sense of place could be a positive emotion, like our feelings about a certain stretch of beach, but it could also be a negative emotion. Think of going into an abandoned house covered with graffiti, or a place where people throw out household goods on the sidewalk before they get picked up by bulk pickup trucks.

What to place in your folder

  • an analysis of one of your images, the best one.
  • two 8X10 prints of your two best images.
  • a contact sheet with the two prints circled

What your assignment should look like

Aim for a contact sheet that contains

  • At least 20 visible images
  • At least 7 different subjects – no portraits
  • images evenly exposed (with the same levels of dark and light tones)
  • Apply what you have learned so far. This means
    • Shots that are sometimes vertical
    • Shots that contain only deliberate silhouettes
    • Shots taken in ideal “cloudy bright” conditions

Aim for prints that

  • contain no large white areas. We need to see faint details in the upper tones
  • contain some areas that are absolute, completely black – to anchor your tones to the lowest part of the tone range.
  • make use of the entire rectangle, with a clear center of interest in one of the four possible areas.