Mobile Photography: The Rule of Thirds

Back in the glory days of highschool, things were a lot less complicated. No electronics to beg for our attention, everything was pure and simple. That is far from true today. We can barely function with out our phones or computers. While making our lives easier, it’s simultaneously made them more complicated. In our next installment of Mobile Photography, we are going to go back to the basics of composition. I’m talking about The Rule of Thirds. This is probably the first lesson I learned about photography while in highschool. It could have been darkroom safety, but we no longer need that haha!   

The Rule of Thirds is exactly what it’s name suggests. Imagine your image divided into three equal parts vertically and three equal parts horizontally. Back in highschool, you would actually have to imagine the image separated into the three equal parts, but thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to. Just turn on the grid lines for your mobile phone’s camera. It’s pretty simple and we will go over it, using the iPhone. To turn on the grid lines for your camera, you need to locate the settings button and tap it. Once inside, locate the Photos & Camera tab and select it. You will see a few options for replay, and towards the middle, you will see a toggle button for the camera grid. Toggle it to the on position and go back to your home screen and select the camera. You will immediately see the difference.

  The idea of the Rule of Thirds is to help you compose images that are more interesting and appealing to the human eye. It is a guideline that suggests we either break up major elements of our images so that they are positioned equally within these segments, or we position the primary subject of our image at the intersections of these lines. If you are new to photography, I like to think of it is a tool to help you break out of simply centering your subject. Use the rule as an aid to help you discover new ideas for your own compositions.

In Practice 

Now that we know a little bit about what the Rule of Thirds is, and how to use it, let’s take a look at what it does and how it benefits us. Below are a few images that I’ve applied the Rule of Thirds to and broke up the image into three parts,  along the horizontal axis. 

If you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of sunsets πŸ˜‰ Another way to apply the rule is to position the primary subject of your image at the intersection of a vertical and horizontal line.


Now that we understand the Rule of Thirds, let’s apply it. Your assignment this week is to make images using your new found compositional guideline. Tag your Instagram photos with #JoeographyThirds and I’ll choose a few of my favorites to feature in our next lesson, which will be another compositional tool for you to use. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @Joeography or on Facebook to see more images that I’ve used the Rule of Thirds in. 


76 thoughts on “Mobile Photography: The Rule of Thirds

  1. Very informative! I learned about the rule of thirds in college, when I majored in graphic design and had to take a couple photography classes to begin the degree. (I didn’t finish the degree, I wish I had.)

    I’m curious about the section of your post that says “assignment,” is this blog for a class?

    1. It’s not really a class, but more of a way to get involvement. To showcase how using the rule of thirds helped. I put the hashtag so I can pick some of the best ones and put them on my next post about photography.

  2. These are great tips, I am going definitely use them on my next vacation. I am thinking about upgrading my blog to make it more photo-friendly, so this post is really helpful!

  3. It’s always great to remember how important composition is in a photo. The right setup can draw you in and make you feel like you are there. I love the picture of the Teddy bear. I just want to reach out and grab him. Awesome shot!

  4. I just bought my first professional camera and lenses and I’m determined to better my photography. So far I’ve just been relying on getting lucky with a few random images, but most of my photos turn out pretty boring. Thanks for the great explanation and photos to go with this rule. It makes it much easier to understand in practice.

  5. I’ve heard this once before, but I’ll definitely have to try it out as I take pictures in the future. I love photography, but I’ve never had a class. So, I really appreciate tips like this. Thanks πŸ™‚

  6. Love these posts. I’m a wannabe photographer but I’m not passionate (or wealthy) enough to justify carrying the extra gear associated with slrs etc. So it’s my simple Panasonic point and shoot or iPhone 6s (I invested in the latest mainly for the camera). Tips like rule of thirds are basic golden nuggets for people like me who just want to get it right without all the expensive equipment around. And I activated grid on my phone as was reading and started snapping away practising πŸ™‚

  7. Good post for beginners. I am a passionate photographer and I have a few photography courses under my belt, so I can attest to the importance of the rule of thirds.

    1. Courses help tremendously. Even if it is a you tube course. The best thing about taking one in person is having someone there to instantly critique and help you.

      There will be a few more post on composition coming soon, hope those help as well!

  8. Hi, thanks for recommendations. I thing rule of thirds is really important. Pictures start to look better after the subject is put out of the centre. Thanks!

  9. A very important rule – I always pay attention to it and sometimes I break it of course, but you need to know the rule before you decide to break it πŸ˜€

  10. Nice post! I love how you’ve provided photo examples showing the Rule of Thirds. I did a photography course a couple of years ago and the rule of thirds was constantly mentioned!

  11. Great tip! The rule of thirds is always a good one to apply–helps to think of composition ahead of time! Love the sunset photos, especially the ones of the pier–so pretty!

  12. Best thing about the rule of thirds: once you know about it and you’ve applied it a few times, you will automatically use it! And it has such a big impact!
    Thanks for posting!

  13. Excellent article/post. I follow these rules like gospel not just with photography but when I film as well since photography and videography are in the same vein. Awesome pictures too!!!

  14. Great points, Didn’t know about the grid setting on the phone. The same thirds rule applies to painting as well… Photography is after all painting with light!! Love your photography!

    1. You should still be able to turn on the grid lines on your phone. If not, the Camera Awesome app works great and has the grid line option. You can also do what they did in old times days 😜 and just imagine the lines on the screen. Over time it becomes second battle and you automatically do that anyway. I’ll definitely look into including more android stuff as well!

  15. The foundation of many photos- the rule of thirds! Its almost magical to see photos look better with this. Thanks to the iPhone making it easier with the grid!

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