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Is the Rule of Thirds a Bunch of BULLONY?

Do you ever sit there flipping through images posted on Facebook or on Google, or through the pages of your favorite photography magazine and wonder how you can develop your own cool style of photography?

The BIGGEST killer of developing your own style is Composition, which is why we’re talking about the Rule of Thirds in Composite Photography.

I know I did in the beginning and would often feel like there’s no way I can ever compete with those photographers. The truth is, however, I’ve learned when you have your own style, there is not competing with other photographers.

Standard Disclaimer: While I have a developed editing process, bringing each portrait to life goes through a slightly different process, so don’t think what I say in an email or video is the absolute way I create my Composites.

Rules are meant to be broken, so let’s start by breaking the Rule of Thirds.

Following the Rules

Let’s start off here with a question, “Are you the type of person who follows the rules, or are you the type of person who likes breaking the rules?”

There is no right or wrong answer, BTW.

Here’s the thing… When it comes to creating Compositions that are Uniquely Different, and Stand Out and Get Noticed, you have to be willing to think outside the photography industries box of what makes a good Composition.

My hope is that you STOP listening to everyone, including myself, who’s telling you your Compositions have to be a certain way.


For example, the Rule of Thirds is NOT the Law of Thirds, which would make it an absolute like the Law of Gravity.

In other words, the Rule of Thirds is simply a suggestion to either follow or not follow depending on your individual artistic desires.

How I Use the Rule of Thirds

Remember my Disclaimer from above?

Because, sometimes I use the Rule of Thirds to help guide me in the Portrait Sketch phase, sometimes I use the Rule of Thirds as I’m stitching together the scene of the portrait, sometimes I use my Rule of Thirds guidelines toward the end to see how everything is coming together, and sometimes I never even consider the Rule of Thirds at all.

How’s that for laying out an easy to follow process?

Step #1 Open New Guide Option

Start by going to “View” in your main menu and selecting “New Guide…” from the drop-down window.

using photoshop guides to set the rule of thirds

Step #2 Set Guide

In the New Guide window, select the vertical option and type 33%, select “OK” and a blue guideline will appear.

setting a new guide in photoshop

Again, go to “View” on your main menu, select “New Guide…”, select “vertical”, type 66%, select “OK” and a blue guideline will appear.

Repeat this process for both the 33% and 66% horizontal lines.

setting new photoshop guides

Now that we have your Rule of Thirds guides set, how do we use them to make our Compositions better?

Using the Rule of Thirds

The BEST way to use the Rule of Thirds guides you’ve just set is by erasing them before you ever get started.

I’m kind of joking, but not really.

Here’s why…

Your style is how you see the world, and when you’re going through the process of discovering and defining how YOU see the world, the Rule of Thirds becomes a serious roadblock. Leaving you thinking that if followed, like your art teacher told you to, then your Composition will be better.

I say BIG FAT BULLONY on that one!

Ok, let’s look at this a different way.

Take a second, stop reading this, and take a look around you.

Seriously, take a second, stop reading this, and look around you.

Now, take a moment and think about what you just saw, the colors, the lines, and how what you saw makes you feel.

Ok, got it? Are you feeling the scene you just saw?

Now, tell me how that scene you just looked at, and that you felt, works according to the Rule of Thirds.

It doesn’t, does it?

That’s because what you see in the real world doesn’t give a crap about the Rule of Thirds and that’s the precise reason you shouldn’t either.

My job, your job, our job as Creative Portrait Photographers is to create images that make people FEEL something, and for me, that’s Happiness and Laughter.

When you share your unique view of the world with people and help them feel alive, Composition becomes an afterthought.

That’s a Wrap

I admit, when I was where you’re at now, I thought just like you and it wasn’t until I looked back at my first Composites Portrait several months later that my “style” was there all along, and had nothing to do with the Rule of Thirds.

Join the Creative Portrait on Patreon and with others discover how your Creative Portraits can help make people feel.

I want to hear what you have to say about the Rule of Thirds and whether you think it’s a bunch of BULLONY like I do.

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