How to make your iPhone photography more striking with the "rule of thirds"
You've got yourself an iPhone equipped with arguably the best camera this side of a high-end point-and-shoot. It's so good there's a whole movement that's sprung up around it called "iPhoneography", or photography with the iPhone. It proves the old saying, "the best camera is the one you have with you", and in this case, that camera is also pretty darn good. But it takes more than just a great camera or lens to produce great photography. That's where iMore's new iPhoneography segment comes in. We're going to go over all the basics and work together to transform simple snapshots into photographic art.
And if you're already a seasoned photographer or iPhoneographer, we welcome you to join us. Sit in on the articles and in our new Photography Forum, lend us your eye, and share with us your experiences.
Now on with our first project! One of the most important, yet most difficult, elements in creating beautiful photographs is composition - where your subject is placed and how it's related to its surroundings. A great starting point for developing this skill is to understand the rule of thirds.
What is the rule of thirds?
Take a close look at the vertical lines in the image above. These two lines divide the image into thirds. Similarly, there are lines that divide the photo horizontally in thirds. Together, these lines form a grid over the photo and divide the image into 9 equal parts. The rule of thirds is simply a guideline that states that a photo is compositionally more interesting if the important elements of the image lie on one of the grid lines or their intersections. In the above photo, I have placed my daughter on the far right vertical line.
Luckily for you, the iPhone has the option to turn on this grid so that you don't have to estimate where the lines fall while taking your photo. To do so, while taking a photo just tap options and switch the grid to on. Until you feel comfortable with your ability of using the rule of thirds, I recommend leaving the grid turned on.
Landscapes and horizons
When photographing landscapes, it's important to make sure the horizon is not in the dead center of your photo because it is compositionally boring. Using the rule of thirds on the horizon will instantly improve your results. Make sure the more interesting piece, the sky or earth, is what makes up two thirds of your photo. In the example above, I chose to highlight the sky. Notice that I used the rule of thirds twice, both on the horizon and sun. I decided to change things up a little in this next photo.
After taking a few photos with the horizon on the bottom third of the frame and the sun on the left grid line, I wasn't too thrilled with the results and felt my pictures were a little bland. The sky wasn't particularly interesting on this day and there wasn't anything that made my photos special. So instead of making the predictable decision with the horizon on one of my horizontal lines, I placed the sun on the bottom grid line. In fact, in the above image, the sun lies on the intersection of the bottom and left grid lines. By pure luck, a bird decided to fly into the frame and I waited until he was flying past my right grid line to snap the photo. These two changes suddenly made this photo a lot more interesting.
I made a simliar decision for the following photo.
When taking photos of sunsets, it's alway more interesting to involve a silhouette, so that's what I decided to do with this tree. Most of the time, you would want your silhouette to fall on one of the grid lines, but it wasn't working with this tree -- there was something awkward about it. So, instead, I decided to use the rule of thirds on the sun. Again, it's lying on the intersection of the bottom and left grid lines and the photo came out great.
The important element of just about every portrait is your subject's eyes, so make sure the eyes fall on one or more of the grid lines. When shooting in portrait orientation, you may want to center the subject with the top grid line passing through your subject's eyes. When shooting in landscape orientation, take advantage of both horizontal and vertical grid lines by placing one of your subjects eyes on the intersection of two grid lines.
Rules are meant to be broken
Keep in mind that this so-called rule is only a guideline and does not need to be followed to a tee. For example, if there is a lot of symmetry in your scene you may want to highlight the symmetry by centering your subject. Or perhaps moving your subject even further off center will have a greater impact and improve your photo. Be creative and don't limit yourself.
Now go out and shoot!
Now that you know how to use the rule of thirds, here's your first assignment: go out and practice. Turn on the iPhone camera's grid and shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Then head over to the Photography Forums, ask questions if you have them, and share the great shots you got demonstrating the rule of thirds. Go!
We can't wait to see them!
How to get more help with iPhone photography
- How to get started with iPhone photography
- How to make your iPhone photography more striking with the “rule of thirds”
- How to make your iPhone photographs more powerful with negative space
- How to take amazing macros with your iPhone
- How to take stunning panoramas with your iPhone
- How to take awesome HDR photos with your iPhone
- How to take great looking portraits with your iPhone camera
- How to take fantastic photos of your kids with your iPhone
- How to take dreamy iPhone photos of your newborn baby
- How to take irresistible photos of your pets with your iPhone
- How to take spectacular photos of your car with your iPhone
- How to use iPhoto to darken and add drama to your iPhone photography
- How to use iPhoto to polish and perfect your iPhone portraits
- All iPhone Camera app how-tos
- All iPhone Photos app how-tos
- iPhone photography forum