How to create beautiful iPhone photos: the rule of thirds

I’m often asked how I create my iPhone photos, so I thought I’d break it down and give everyone a crash course in iPhone photography. Today I’m talking about the rule of thirds.

What on earth is this ‘rule of thirds’ you speak of?
The rule of thirds is a technique used by photographers to create balance in photos. By using the rule of thirds it’s quite pleasing on the eye and makes the composition more interesting.

Let me simplify it for you. Imagine your photo is broken up into nine little squares {see the image below}. Ideally you want to try to avoid cutting a photo in two by putting the object right in the middle. If I’d moved the building up to sit right smack-bang in the middle of the photo, it wouldn’t be as effective. For the composition to work it’s magic it is best if the focus of the photo {in this case the building} sits at the bottom third {as it does} or at the top third.


Confused?
Don’t be. Here’s another example {below}. See how I’ve put the focus of the photo {in this case Lacey on her scooter} in the very right third of the photo. If I’d put her in the centre it just wouldn’t look as great composition-wise.

Take these two photos I took of the sunset over the weekend. I wanted to show how if I’d put the horizontal line in the photo, which is the skyline, in the middle it wouldn’t be as interesting visually. In the right-hand photo I’ve moved the skyline down into the bottom third and ta-dah, it’s much more pleasing. It works better, don’t you think?

It can be hard to imagine that grid in your photos when you’re taking them, especially when you’ve got a moving subject {ie little people!}. If you’re using an iPhone {and it’s upgraded to iOS 5} then you’ll see the grid on your screen as you take your photos. You can try and put the rule into action as you take your photos. Start by taking pics of things that don’t move – food, skylines, buildings etc for practice.

Or if you’re uploading to something like Instagram that requires a square photo, shoot away and edit later. Just select your photo in the camera roll and click edit {in the top right corner}. Click the crop tool and then select square. Move the picture around so it works with the rule of thirds. For my photo I wanted to make sure the top of the ferris wheel hit the first third in the photo. Lastly, click save.

On a final note, this is just a guide. Taking photos and breaking this rule doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a bad photo! Experiment, use this rule sometimes, and sometimes break it. I use this rule a lot when taking my photos as a guide, but a lot of other factors influence my photos too. I’ll talk about those over the next few weeks.

Happy snapping! x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17550282314651409479 Barrett Family

    Thank you for sharing! I'm new to learning all these fun photography techniques but you but it very simple. I am going to start putting “the rule of thirds” into practice!

    XO

    Allison

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08784047289138430006 Miss K

    Thanks for explaining what the grid is for!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03538649790385372944 K i e r a

    Excellent tip! Thank you :) I've just turned on the grid on my iPhone! xx

  • http://beyondelsewhere.ca Cat

    I am ashamed to admit I didn't even know there WAS a crop tool on my iPhone camera roll!! I'm rather embarrassed about this but also happy I follow your blog to have clued in. Thank you. ;)

    • Anonymous

      I think the crop tool is only on Instagram….if not I'm clueless too lol

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      The crop tool is in the camera roll as well. Follow the instructions above. x

  • http://www.sequinsandsand.com.au Anita

    Just brilliant! Simple and powerful tips Chantelle. Your photos are fabulous. Thanks for sharing. A:)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02016017054209643249 Pretty Things

    Great tips, thanks so much for sharing

    Xxx

  • http://runnerstales.com Rachel

    These tips are great! Thanks for sharing this! I just got my iPhone last month and have been enjoying the beautiful pictures that it takes but now they will be even better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00781939430745328713 Redcliffe Style

    Fantastic post. This will certainly come in handy. Thank you, Rachel x

  • http://seriouslysassymama.com/ seriouslysassymama.com

    I had no idea that the iphone camera had these options. I am behind. I still have a 3gs, so my camera is not the best. Trying to hold out for the iphone 5. Great info!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16423155273754490984 Something Gorgeous

    Wow! Thank you. Iv'e learn't a lot today. Can't wait for more tips. G.x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08900514659625593315 Missy

    This is a great example of “you learn something new everyday”
    This was mine! Thanks

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13272090974052486539 Mrs Woog

    You are such a generous gal, sharing your expertise all the time. Love your work xx

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17165134960597366495 Raquel xo

      Agreed!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      Thanks guys! x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10903806247994612318 Ally

    fantastic.. thanks chantelle!
    Have a great day!
    http://www.quiltingmumma.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18301830877869645896 Amanda

    So excited that you're sharing these tips with us! Your instagram photos are always so lovely!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15795276216564721099 hannah

    These are fabulous tips. Being a photographer, I love trying out lots of different apps and then importing them into insta.gram – smugmug's new awesome camera is my favourite. You tips for composition are great – rule of thirds is so important.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13813876830110696725 Maribel Reyes

    I've had my iPhone since 2009 and never knew I could edit pictures directly after I take them! This is fantastic! I am now going to practice with your tips. :D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01986297189654783876 helen

    I have 2 questions…I can't find an edit button on my iphone in Instagram. Also, how do I find the pics that people post under the hashtag #photoadayapril?

    Can anybody help?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      Hey Helen. Is your phone updated to iOS5?

      And to find the hashtag you can either click on it in your own photos (so if you write #photoadayApril in your caption, just go back to that photo and click on the hashtag – it will take you to all of the photos with that hashtag) OR got to your profile and search the hashtag. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17150451134133046637 Alex

    Thanks for this great advice. I'll be experimenting soon.
    Alex

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10538993178188989025 Jodie (aka mummaducka)

    I went to a Pete longworths photography course the other night and this was the first thing he talked a bout in composition. After light and subject.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07324717795943773413 Amber

    Thank you for sharing!!! I heard that term years ago in an intro to photography course (that I dropped after the first class) and never thought about it again until now! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14202568170129872631 Jeanie (Inspired Wish)

    I love using the rule of thirds. If you can place items on the line that's best. Even better if you place items where the lines cross.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tip :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07242717060437622087 Salz DummySpit

    i always thought that the grids were annoying. i might have to turn them on now to try it out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08570993625679974104 Vicki ShoppeGirls

    Thank you for sharing these tips Chantelle. I will look at taking my photos differently now. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06333858903359349225 Deb

    I dont know if you've seen this one or not, but I LOL'd big time… and instantly thought of you.

    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/066e86b03e/the-filtered-network?rel=featured

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      HILARIOUS! Thanks for sharing. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06357792156461369030 Sandra

    That's really useful. Thank you I shall have a go this very day!

  • http://indigoinspirationsmullum.blogspot.com Jo @ indigo inspirations

    Thanks so much for sharing….I really find your info informative….thanks again xox Jo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10410664963638199208 michael verhoef

    I am actually going to rain on your parade.
    Part of what makes photos is interesting is when a photos ignores the rule of thirds. It's easy to play it safe and follow the rule of thirds but genuinely you create more interesting and challenging images when you try to buck the rule of thirds.

    Try turning the grid on your phone off.. It may actually allow you to create more interesting images.

    I was following you on Instagram but I've stopped because I'm unimpressed.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      Thanks for your feedback Michael. In the last paragraph I say you can follow the rule or break it, it's not a rule that you have to live by.

      I'm OK that you're unimpressed. The beauty with creativity is that not everyone is going to love what you do, and it's up to everyone's personal choice on what they like visually – and what works for them.

      Happy photo-taking. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03393584054483651535 Westendpieces

    Thanks for the tips. I'm a shocking photographer – my daughter takes better photos than me. I have been wondering though why my instagram photos were always a bit better. Now I realise because they become square photos after I have used a rectangle screen to take the photos. I'm definately going to try this 3rd rule tomorrow and hopefully my photography will improve. Ta,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09868013818936035192 Anna

    This is great! I can't wait to see more of your tips!

  • http://reykjaviczanka.blogspot.com/ Karola

    Very interesting indeed, the sunset comparison photos are explaining the issue nicely :) Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053578506201738975 Mirella

    Thank you so much for the tips, love your photo's and website

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      Thanks Mirella. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00396782991938314407 Erica

    WOW. what a helpful post! thank you so much. i always LOVE your photos. you are so gracious to share your technique. :)
    xoxo

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02167267576456836722 Chantelle {fat mum slim}

      Thanks Erica. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14518689122164909399 Kati – Incorporating Color

    Thanks for the quick tips – I need a way to make my Instagram photos stand up to those of my artsy friends!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13520599203391650614 louisebowman

    Brilliant! Great tips! I always think your photos look stunning, I am giving this a go today!! x x x

    http://cornishbunting.blogspot.co.uk/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00303185526733174148 GiantsBear

    Thanks for the tips, I use a droid but these should still be helpful!

  • http://saraid366project.tumblr.com/ saraid

    ahh you are genius, I tried this this morning and it looks awesome!

  • http://modernmummymayhem.com/ modernmummymayhem.com

    Great post…thanks :))

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12521323308311211166 Em

    Excellent tips, thanks heaps!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13823564682558900328 Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

    I was just thinking the other day that all your photos are so beautiful. Really looking forward to the rest of this series.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this, I am a simple point and shoot person and I have never heard about this technique before, I will definitely use this going forward when taking my next set of photos.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04660298795188128450 wg

    These tips are really helpful. Thanks so much for posting!

  • Bia Hain

    Tenho acompanhado suas dicas e adorado, traz um novo olhar sobre as imagens. Um abraço!

  • http://www.theloverlist.com/ Brooke @ TheLoverList

    Another great technique shared – thank you!! My pics will be amazing now!

  • Fayelle

    I love this technique but don’t think it’s valuable all the time. Yeah, the ferris wheel shot is cool if you want to win a composition contest, but if I wanna remember the moment, having so much sky may be a huge turnoff. Sometimes, many times, the rule of thirds seems like a waste of space. But that’s just my opinion. (The beach though, that works because the sky is way more interesting than the sand)

    • http://www.fatmumslim.com.au/ Chantelle : Fat Mum Slim

      Definitely. That’s why I wrote what I did in the last paragraph.

  • Missy

    Chantelle-

    Thank you for sharing your tips. If you handed me a stack of 5 photos, I could -undoubtedly – pick yours out. Isn’t that what every photographer strives for? You’ve created a style all your own. While you don’t always have an entire subject in a frame or maybe you can’t see faces because you’ve captured a sun flare, it still holds TONS of meaning. That’s not easy to do. What a great gift you’re handing down to your girls in an entire collection of photos that speaks volumes.

  • Shannon

    I have been using the rule of thirds for years and years, but wanted a refresher and to read your take on it. In looking at your scooter photo, I realized that I tend to use the inner crosshairs as points of interest and the horizontal thirds, but rarely the vertical thirds–particularly filling all 3 squares on one side (as in the scooter photo). I’m going to try that for the prompt. Hope I’m making sense! Missy is right. You have a lovely unique style that I find inspiring.

  • Linda Thompson Gebelein

    I didn’t know a thing about this and I have always, in my ignorance, centered everything (it’s also a little OCD I guess). I will enjoy experimenting with this for the September 21 prompt. Thanks!

  • Amanda

    Thanks for the explanation! I was stumped until I read this post.

  • The Anonymous Blonde

    I’ve always heard about the rule of thirds, but now with your post I “see” it. That makes all the difference….