Monday, August 13, 2007

Photojournalism (19): Rule of thirds

(Note: At the bottom portion of this post, you can watch YouTube videos explaining the rule of thirds.)

We have been taught from our earliest picture-taking days to center the subject in the viewfinder, with other elements or details placed equally on the left and right sides of the subject.With the picture below for example, my cute niece Chloe and my cute nephew Gino (who looks like me!) are in the center of the frame, with their fluffy dolls on their left and right sides.

My niece Chloe and my cute nephew Gino (who looks like me); balanced or symmetrical view; photo by Atty. Galacio

(If you are using a 35 mm compact camera, what usually happens is that your subject turns out either on the left or the right side of the picture when you thought you had centered your subject while viewing it through the viewfinder. This is called “parallax error.” With a single lens reflex camera, you don’t have to worry about “parallax error” since what you’ll see through the viewfinder is exactly what the camera lens sees. With the advent of digital cameras where you can see your subject on a LCD panel, parallax error isn’t much of a problem anymore.)

Photography is a relatively young art, having existed for only more than 167 years, compared with painting which has been practiced since the dawn of history. Some people think that painters are better than photographers, or that photography is an art form that’s second class compared to painting. Nothing can be further from the truth. World renowned painters like Miró, Picasso, and Monét were all avid photographers. Toch Arellano, a well-known Filipino photographer who specializes in portraits and yearbook photography, was taking up painting in UST, if I remember right, before he shifted to photography. Vic Sison, a multi-talented Filipino artist, incorporates paintings into his photographs.

Rule of thirds: giving your subject off-center emphasis

If you’d like therefore to excel in photography, you should learn from the techniques of painters. (Portrait photographers oftentimes talk about “Rembrandt lighting.”) One such technique is the so-called “rule of thirds.” Following this rule gives your subject or some important element of your image off-center emphasis. You can do this by dividing a scene into a one third/two thirds proportion.

Here’s how:

[1] Divide the picture area into three equal parts, both horizontally and vertically. The dividing lines will create four intersecting points, which are called the intersection of thirds.

[2] Place your subject (or some important element of your image) at or near any of the intersections.

Kapag tumibok ang puso!Rule of thirds; place your subject at the intersection of thirds; 1996; photo by Atty. GalacioTake these students in the picture above. I could have centered them in the viewfinder and I would certainly have come up with a good picture. But I purposely placed them at the intersection of thirds to give them off-center emphasis. Placing them at the intersection of thirds gave more emphasis to the boy’s outstretched left hand pointing toward the distance.

Rule of thirds; place important elements of your image at the intersection of thirds; Rizal High School gym 1992; photo by Atty. GalacioIn the picture above of a gymnasium all decorated up for graduation ceremonies, I placed the bright roof light at the intersection of thirds (on the upper right hand corner) to give it off-center emphasis.

Rule of thirds; place your subject at the upper or lower one third of your image area; photo by Atty. Galacio

Rule of thirds; place your subject at the lower or upper one third area of your image area; NSSPC 1993 Rizal High School; photo by Atty. Galacio

The pictures above show another application of the rule of thirds. The boys, in the first picture, are on the upper one third of the frame. The stage (second picture) is at the lower one third of the picture while the trees occupy the upper two thirds.

This is exactly how you should shoot the sun. Don’t place the sun in the middle of the frame. Place it either at the upper one third or the lower one third area of the frame.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you SO much. This helped a lot.