Compose your pictures with this rule in mind

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Cowgirls on horseback at the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals at the Penrose Equestrian Center. The upper right grid intersects on the riders face and leads the viewer's eye into the scene. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Cowgirls on horseback at the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals at the Penrose Equestrian Center. The upper right grid intersects on the riders face and leads the viewer's eye into the scene.
Composition in photography asks and answers these questions: Who are you? What story are you trying to tell? Why did you frame the picture this way? And, does it (the picture) work?

We all have a way of seeing. We all have a specific point of view. Found in the composition of a photograph is the essence of who the photographer is.

Children are great at this. When given a camera, a child, who knows nothing about the rules of composition, will impart their own personal vision to any frame. It’s this innocence that both delights and inspires us. It also reminds us that there are no firm rules of composition, only suggestions.

One of these suggestions is called the “rule of thirds.” Dividing the camera frame into nine equal parts or grids allows us to think about composing a photograph to make it more visually appealing.

It’s quite a powerful rule of thumb — no pun intended — and one that should be practiced regularly in your picture taking.

I’m a self-taught photographer. Except for a few intro photography classes and a couple of workshops, I've developed my vision and my “rules” for composition largely by myself. My best pictures also happen to use the rule of thirds.

Here are several photographs that I enjoy and appreciate, and I think are excellent examples of the “rule of thirds.” Notice where your eye and attention go using the grid in each image. 

A soldier holds spent shells during a memorial service at Fort Cason. The shells are placed on the right third and the gloved hand draws the eye towards the casings. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A soldier holds spent shells during a memorial service at Fort Cason. The shells are placed on the right third and the gloved hand draws the eye towards the casings.
My children descend the stairs to the Fox exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art. Jacob, top right, grabs your attention and then we discover all of the little details of the scene within. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • My children descend the stairs to the Fox exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art. Jacob, top right, grabs your attention and then we discover all of the little details of the scene within.
Dancers at the Green Box Art Festival in Green Mountain Falls. The arms of both dancers mirror each other and are placed in the outside grids. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Dancers at the Green Box Art Festival in Green Mountain Falls. The arms of both dancers mirror each other and are placed in the outside grids.
A smudge ceremony by Ms. Judy during the Giving Tree Montessori's Peace Picnic in Cheyenne Canon. Ms. Judy's face lands squarely on the intersection of the grid at top left. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A smudge ceremony by Ms. Judy during the Giving Tree Montessori's Peace Picnic in Cheyenne Canon. Ms. Judy's face lands squarely on the intersection of the grid at top left.
Black and white landscape of the Garden of the Gods. The branches here crawl through the girds and the ridge line descends from left to right. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Black and white landscape of the Garden of the Gods. The branches here crawl through the girds and the ridge line descends from left to right.
The "rule of thirds" is a fundamental rule of photography that helps separate the good and the great from the average photographs.

Try it for yourself and see! 

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.

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