Rule of Thirds = ROT

March 14, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

 

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."
Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams is revered by many as the greatest ever landscape photographer. I don’t know if I’d go that far – at some point these things get a bit silly. Was Pablo Casals a greater musician than Jimi Hendrix? (Answers on a postcard, and send them to someone else, please!) 

What I can say is that Adams has been a big influence on me, especially in the early part of my career. I’m an admirer, not a slavish disciple, but I do believe he said more wise things about photography than almost anyone else. And one of the wisest things he ever said was this: ‘There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.’ 

Which came to mind recently when I was reading a camera manual to help someone who was struggling with their camera (it might be unfair to name the maker), and came across some advice for taking ‘good pictures’. Including the old chestnut: position the subject at the intersection of thirds. 

Ah, the dear old ‘Rule of Thirds’–only in my view it’s not dear but dire. I’d venture to suggest that this ‘Rule’ has killed more potentially interesting photos, and probably crushed more photographers’ enthusiasm, than anything else.

It's not that you can't ever take good photos using it, but it gets in the way at least as often as it helps.
 My advice about the ‘Rule of Thirds’ is very simple: forget it. 

In fact, if it wasn't so frequently quoted all over the place, I wouldn’t even have mentioned it. 
OK, I can guess what's coming next: if it's so bad, why is it so frequently cited? Actually, it beats me, because I see lots of photographers talk about it who clearly do not slavishly follow it in their own work. I think it's just become a standard knee-jerk reaction whenever anyone asks about composition.

No doubt I'll have more to say on this soon, but meanwhile here's a pic that definitely doesn't conform to the ROT.
JON_0373

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