How to Take Amazing Travel Photos By Using the Rule of Thirds

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If you’ve ever taken a trip to an amazing, beautiful place and come back with a camera full of dull, uninspiring pictures, this article is for you!

I was always bemused as to how fellow travelers and friends of mine could produce amazing photos of their journeys, while I (using a similar, cheap digital camera) could only produced mediocre photographs.

As I have traveled the world, by far the most useful tip that I’ve learnt when taking photographs is to employ what’s known as the ‘Rule of Thirds’.

The Rule of Thirds

According to Wikipedia, the Rule Of Thirds states that “an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.

Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.

To put it simply, when taking a photo you should try to visualize four lines (two horizontal, two vertical) in front of you that divide up the frame into nine (roughly) equal rectangles.

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds dictates that the subject matter of your photo (i.e. the main point or points of interest) should be along one or more of these imaginary dividing lines, and should ideally be found at one of the four intersecting points.

Rule of Thirds Highlights

To demonstrate this principle in action, take a look at the following two photographs.

Bad picture

In this first photo the surfboard is positioned directly in the center of the shot.

As you can see, when I took this I was completely ignoring the Rule of Thirds, as the surfboard is not at all in line with the imaginary vertical lines shown here:

Bad picture with frame

To make matters worse, the photo is zoomed out so far that the surfboard doesn’t touch the top horizontal line either.

Now let’s take a look at this second photo:

Employing the rule of thirds

This photo was taken just seconds after the first (with the same camera). The only difference is that I tried to frame the shot better by employing the Rule of Thirds.

Employing the rule of thirds

The difference here is that the surfboard (i.e. the subject matter) now lines up with the first vertical line, and is positioned almost right on the part where the vertical and horizontal lines meet (i.e. the ‘hotspot’).

Essentially, that’s what the Rule of Thirds is all about – positioning your subject matter along these four imaginary lines to create a more interesting picture.

Examples of The Rule Of Thirds In Action

I don’t claim to be a great photographer (far from it!), but I have noticed that after putting the Rule of Thirds into action, the quality of my photos has drastically improved.

Here are some examples of photographs that I’ve taken (or that were taken of me) employing the Rule of Thirds:

Here’s a photo that was taken of me in Yosemite National Park:


As you can see, it matches up very well with the principles of the Rule of Thirds, as I am located on the bottom right hotspot, and the mountains in the distance are in the two top hotspots:


Here is another from Yosemite National Park:

Yosemite National Park

And how I again match up well with the lines:

Yosemite National Park

And finally, here is a photo I took of my friend:

Yosemite National Park

As you can see, his head is right on the top right hotspot area:

Yosemite National Park

Good luck, and happy shooting!

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