photography education

Copyright Law: Understanding Your Rights as a Photographer

In the age of social media, a clear understanding of your rights as a photographer is crucial to receiving the credit you deserve. But with so much information out there, you might find yourself asking:

  • What laws are in place to protect photographers like me?
  • What do I do if someone uses my photo without permission?
  • How long do photographers have ownership of their images?

Here you will find an overview of what copyright law is and how it impacts your photography business. We’ll also take a look at the downloadable copyright resources and copyright infringement tools available to PPA members.

What is Copyright?

Copyright law in the United States prohibits the unauthorized copying of a “work of authorship.” In 1988, the following amendment was added to address visual works including photography:

“Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works” include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings, including architectural plans. Such works shall include works of artistic craftsmanship insofar as their form but not their mechanical or utilitarian aspects are concerned; the design of a useful article, as defined in this section, shall be considered a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”

Phew. That’s a mouthful of legalese! So what does it mean in English? Basically, copyright law says that when you take a photograph, you become the copyright owner of the image created. This means you hold exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce the photograph
  • Display the image in a public space
  • Distribute the photo
  • Create derivatives of the image

Seems straightforward, no? But what’s considered a “derivative?”

A “new version” of a work that is already copyrighted falls under the term of a “derivative” work. Special re-edits of movies, art reproductions, and literary translations all qualify as derivatives. A film based on a book or play is another common example.

In the realm of photography, any time someone creates a photograph that is a copy or “substantially similar” to another copyrighted work, they are potentially infringing upon the original owner’s rights.

By comparing and evaluating a derivative work to the original, a court of law can determine if any copyright laws have been violated. In other words, a photographer who went to great lengths to recreate an original work’s composition, lighting, and other creative elements would be more likely to be found guilty of copyright infringement than a photographer who simply takes pictures of subjects that already exist in other photos (i.e., monuments, nature). This means many different photographers can take photos of, say, the Golden Gate Bridge without infringing on each other’s artistic rights.

If you suspect your image has been used without your permission, use PPA’s copyright infringement tool to help you determine your next steps.

Mercedes Benz & Detroit’s Eastern Market Murals

In addition to looking out for your own rights, you as a photographer need to be aware of ways you may unknowingly infringe upon another artist’s rights. The last thing you want to do is misuse another creative’s work!

Take for example Mercedes Benz’s 2018 ad campaign featuring the company’s new vehicle “barreling through Detroit’s boho Eastern Market district past commercial buildings painted with vibrant murals.” Cool concept, no doubt. But the artists who created those murals that contributed so much color and atmosphere to the campaign were never asked permission to use their work, let alone credited:

“While Mercedes sought municipal permission to make beautiful shots of its vehicles on public city streets, it did not seek the muralists’ permission to make and post images of their works on Instagram. Copyright infringement? Mercedes thought not. The muralists—James Lewis, Jeff Soto, Maxx Gramajo, and Daniel Bombardier—thought otherwise.”

Read the full story at PPmag.com. The Mercedes Benz ad campaign is important for two reasons:

  1. It shows the importance of being aware of how others’ work appears in your photographs
  2. It serves as an example of how your work may be misused

The exception to copyright law is when the reproduction of a photograph or visual work is deemed “fair use.” The next section digs deeper into this term.

Fair Use

Fair use is an exception when it comes to copyright law. Journalism, critiques, research, and teaching materials are examples of specific types of writing that allow the reproduction of copyright-protected works without the permission of the “author”.

For example, if you exhibit your photography in a gallery, an art publication generally does not need permission to reproduce your image if they’re using it as part of a critique. Or, conversely, a newspaper may publish photographs of works and use them as part of an article. Both of these are examples of copyrighted work being used under “fair use” guidelines.

When considering whether a reproduction of a work is fair use, the U.S. Copyright Act says “the factors to be considered shall include whether:

  1. The use is of commercial nature or if it is for nonprofit education purposes
  2. The copyrighted work is highly creative or if it is fact-based
  3. Part of the entire original work was reproduced or just a part of it
  4. The reproduction reduces the value of the original work or has no effect

One important thing to keep in mind is that social media marketing’s use of images very rarely falls under “fair use.” If your photographic work is being used without your permission, check out the resources from PPA below for help determining if you need to take further action.


Resources

Remember: If a company uses one of your images in their marketing—on social media or otherwise—without your approval, they are violating your rights as a creator. So, what do you do if you suspect your work of being used without your permission? PPA has resources to help you understand copyright law, and even a Copyright Infringement Tool to leave no question in your mind whether or not your rights as a creator have been violated.

Protecting your work is vital to your success as a photographer. For more PPA resources, click here. 



Sources:
https://ppmag.com/news/photographers-should-be-cautious-about-using-murals-as-backdrops
https://blog.hootsuite.com/understanding-image-copyright/
https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/what-are-derivative-works-under-copyright-law
https://copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html


 

10 tools to improve composition in your photography.

SmugMug

SmugMugFollowingSep 9, 2020 · 5 min read

Have you ever taken a photo, certain this one will be a masterpiece, only to find your final shot doesn’t convey the power, emotion, or story you hoped it would? There are lots of factors that contribute to a photo’s impact, but one of the biggest is photo composition.
What is photo composition?
Composition in photography is defined as the visual arrangement of elements in your photo. Believe it or not, there are better and worse ways to compose a photograph based on how we see and interpret color, light, and shape.
Let’s consider your photo from the introduction: Each element to create your masterpiece may be in the frame but, for some reason, the finished photo doesn’t have the impact you wanted it to. It could be that certain objects within the frame are distracting your eye from the main subject. Or maybe a misplaced line is leading your eye away from the focal point of your photo. Perhaps a particularly dark or bright feature in your photo is overwhelming the rest of your image.

Photo composition takes all these factors into account. By learning a few simple rules of composition, you can make sure your next shot is a masterpiece.

Before we get to the tools, though, let’s clear up one point of common confusion: photo composition versus composite photography. Composite photography is taking multiple images and layering them into one. Photo composition is how you capture or arrange elements within a single shot. Composition plays a big role in composite photography, too, but we don’t want to get too in the weeds here. On to the tools!

Composition in photography is defined as the visual arrangement of elements in your photo. Believe it or not, there are better and worse ways to compose a photograph based on how we see and interpret color, light, and shape.

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10 tools for better photography composition.

  • The rule of thirds: How you line up your subject in the frame plays a huge role in how visually interesting your photo is. One of the most common rules in composition is known as the rule of thirds. Imagine a grid that divides your photo into nine equal sections. Using the rule of thirds, your focal point should be placed around one of the four spots where these lines intersect, or along one of the horizontal or vertical lines. This helps you establish a balanced image that’s pleasing to the eye. Many cameras have the ability to display a grid while shooting, which should help you keep the rule of thirds in mind.
  • Negative space: Negative space is the space in your photo that isn’t occupied by your subject. Depending on what you’re shooting, you may want to fill the frame and leave as little negative space as possible (keeping the rule of thirds in mind!), or use lots of negative space to your advantage to simplify your photo and focus on your subject. Pay attention to colors and brightness with this technique: contrasting colors and light levels will emphasize your subject far better than similar tones.
  • Frames: While the edges of your photo naturally frame your subject, you can add some extra impact by including more structure and visual interest in your framing. For example, when photographing architecture, look for pillars, archways, posts, or other elements that you can use to frame your subject. When taking landscape or wildlife photos, trees, branches, and other plants can serve the same purpose, putting your viewer into the shot and adding an element of mystery or exploration.
  • Lines: Lines in photo composition are used to guide the eye of your viewer, drawing the eye to a focal point. Lines can also contribute to the feeling your image evokes. Horizontal lines can convey stability, like the horizon in a landscape. Diagonal lines often convey motion or distance, especially when they converge (think of a road going off to the horizon). Vertical lines are excellent for imbuing your image with height, structure, and grandeur (trees, architecture, etc.). When shooting, note the relation of your frame and your lines, and try to be intentional about the way you use these lines to your advantage. Does that powerline lead the eye away from your subject? Is that road cutting across your frame where it shouldn’t be? Maybe find another vantage point to eliminate unwanted lines.
  • Focus: This one is simple: It’s important not to have too much distraction from your main subject. While your photo may have more than one focal point (or a broad focal range), if there’s too much going on the viewer may feel lost. Make sure your focal point is clear and uncluttered.
  • Juxtaposition: This composition technique uses two elements that contrast each other, often to draw a comparison between the two. Sharp and soft, happy and sad, tall and short, light and dark, near and far — the options are endless and can make for a much more interesting photo than either subject on its own.
  • Symmetry: There are times when the rule of thirds isn’t your best option. When the subject has exciting details that are symmetrical, you can place your subject in the center of your frame to excellent effect. For example, an ornate staircase, a path through the woods, or a reflection on a still body of water can make a great subject if you want to play around with symmetry.
  • The rule of space: When your subject is traveling or facing a certain direction, give it some room to breathe! The rule of space refers to the amount of space in your frame given to the direction that your subject is traveling or facing. For example, if you’re photographing a car driving from left to right, you may want to have more space on the right side of your photo than the left to keep your image from feeling cut off.
  • Patterns: Repeating or otherwise visually appealing patterns can make for a beautiful photo. Pay attention to the lines, symmetry, and directions when composing your photo and make sure the pattern highlights or points to your subject.
  • Odd numbers: When you’re composing a photo, it’s more visually appealing to have an odd number of elements than an even number. The theory behind this is with an even number of elements, the viewer has trouble choosing what to focus on. This same rule is often used in decorating.

While all these tools may seem daunting if you’re first starting out, once you begin to practice them they’ll start to become second nature. Keep these in mind when shooting, and watch your photography skills grow — then experiment! Once you have a handle on photo composition, intentionally breaking a rule or two can give your photos even more impact.

What do you do to improve the composition of your photos? Leave a comment below or share with us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

5 marketing ideas for your photography business

ByKav Dadfar

Like any other business, your photography business requires good marketing and a strategy to help increase its revenue. Here are five simple ideas you can try out…

One of the most important lessons I learned early in my photography career was that to be a commercially-successful photographer, you cannot just be a good photographer. You need to view your photography as a business.

That means being proactive in promoting your work and marketing yourself to potential clients, which is even more critical these days when there is so much competition out there. To help your business grow, you need to start thinking like both a photographer and a marketing manager. These five ideas will help you get into that frame of mind.

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1 Write a marketing plan

All photographers are guilty of the ‘scattergun’ marketing approach. This means the type of marketing strategy that involves the odd social media post, Google ad or a sporadic email to a client. Not many photographers take the time to think and plan their marketing strategy. But planning one presents a real opportunity.

Start by thinking about your photography business overall. Write down what you are hoping to achieve short term and long term. For example, ask yourself, are there any particular customers who you would like approach? Or do you want to start selling photography-related products like calendars and prints? Once you have an idea about your business goals, you can begin devising a marketing plan.

Create a marketing strategy for your photography business and set a range of goals on what you want to achieve in the short-term and long-term.

Think of all the different marketing avenues that you can follow, such as social media, email and networking, and create a strategy for each one. It is not enough to think, “I’ll post a photo on Instagram”. You need to know why you are doing it and what you will be doing. For example, you might choose to use Instagram to showcase photos you want to sell as prints, whereas in an email to your client list, you might like to talk about a shoot you have recently finished.

The important thing is to treat each marketing channel separately and create a bespoke plan for each one that ties into your overall strategy.

My Instagram profile showcases a curated selection of my images and highlights some of the clients I work with.

Top tip:

For a deeper dive into channel-specific social media marketing, check out the dedicated guides found on your Picfair Dashboard here.

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One of the best ways to market your business is to continually keep your contacts and clients informed with news and updates about you and your work. For example, when you finish a new shoot, you could create an album on Picfair with your best images and send an email to your contacts and customers to tell them about it. A proactive approach like this could mean you end up with more sales than you were expecting!

Emails don’t need to be regular. You should make sure everything you send out adds value to your photography business. Make a list of ideas, upcoming shoots, or anything else that is relevant. Then make a note in your diary and who you want to email so that you are ready when the time comes to get in touch.

Popular holidays such as Halloween and Christmas are also a great reason to get in touch with your customers and showcase your themed images.

Send your customers themed holiday emails that showcase your work. Image buyers regularly purchase holiday-themed images. And a friendly email is an ideal way to remind your customers about your photography.

You may also find that emails tailored to particular clients or potential customers will be more successful than blanket emails and better appreciated by the recipient. This is another reason why it is essential to make a proper plan of who you are emailing and why.

Create a calendar for your emails so you can plan well in advance and make sure what you’re going to send out adds value each time.

Create a calendar for your emails so you can plan well in advance and make sure what you’re going to send out adds value.

Don’t neglect print marketing


If you are old enough, you may remember how great it felt when you received a postcard from a relative from their vacation. In today’s digital world, we have somewhat lost the practice of sending out physical correspondence. But you should not underestimate the power of sending out something related to your photography business in print. It will stand out much more than an email and help the recipient keep you in mind every time they see it.

Start by getting some quality, professional-looking business cards printed. Business cards will always be handy to have on you to give people that you meet. And if you’re on a shoot where you could encounter potential customers, like at an event, you’ll have something you can give them.

I often send my best clients and customers something in print, like a set of postcards, desk calendars, or even a small print of one of my photos. I almost always receive an email back with a thank you for the item. Just make sure you enclose your business card with what you’re sending out too!

You can also go further and create something even more significant in print! Here’s a personal magazine of my photography that I’ve made to send to my clients and potential customers.

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Keep your contact information up to date


I often write travel articles for some of the UK’s biggest brands, and recently I was working on a project where I needed travel writers. It was astonishing how difficult it was to find contact information for some people, so I gave up. Those writers missed out on the project I was working on simply because I couldn’t find contact information for them.

Keeping your contact information up to date is one of the quickest and easiest marketing fixes you can make. The best way to do this is to set yourself a reminder once a month, along with a checklist of places to review your contact information.

Keep a list of the places you have your contact information, and keep this up to date. Some of the places where you may keep your contact information may include your Picfair Store, external blog or website, social media profiles, email signatures and any organisations or trade bodies where you are a member.

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As well as your necessary contact details, you may also want to update other relevant information related to your photography business. For example, you may have just won a photography competition, or learned a new type of skill (like aerial photography) or even moved location. Make sure your information tells people about it. Otherwise, you could potentially be missing out on work.

Man playing with drone on the open field

If you’ve recently up-skilled or added a new type of photography to your offering – make sure you add this to your contact information. Image by Gabriel Codarcea.

Engage with other photographers


One of the downsides of photography is that it can be a lonely profession or hobby, which was the case even before the pandemic. However, it’s essential to know that there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to connect with other photographers. Often in associations, camera clubs or even community groups based on the photography subjects you enjoy.

You may think, “How will that help my photography business?”. The answer is that you never know when someone might recommend you for work or know someone who requires your services. Expanding your photographer network will help you get your name out there and lead you to new customers.

At the very least, you should join some private groups on social media (like Facebook groups). These groups also allow you to interact and share ideas with likeminded individuals. Who might inspire you or give you some ideas on how you can improve your images.


Engaging with like-minded photographers will help you expand your network and could lead you to potential new opportunities. Image by Dan Martland.

Next steps


If you want to make your photography business more profitable, then a well-planned and executed marketing strategy is necessary.

Remember, marketing your photography business is no different from any other business. And the sooner you get to work on your strategy, the sooner you’ll start seeing the benefits.

Kav Dadfar

Kav is a full-time photographer and author of 400+ articles. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Magazine Photography of the Year competition and leads small group photo tours around the world

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Photography And Color

In the midst of this Travel Shut Down, I have been devoting my time to learning as much as possible about photography. My love of photography crosses a multiplicity of genre.

Whatever the genre, as a photographer we must address the big three; Light, Color, and Composition. For whatever reason my study of color has been limited.

While I am stuck at home I intend to increase my knowledge of this most important subject. The blog below from 500px Blog is my starting point. Check it out!

500PX BLOG
Color theory for photographers: An introduction to the color wheel

In 1907, Auguste and Louis Lumière presented autochrome—a revolutionary method for reproducing color in photographs. The world was stunned and enraptured. “Soon the world will be color-mad,” photographer Alfred Stieglitz wrote that July from Munich. “And Lumière will be responsible.”

We’ve come a long way in the last century, and we no longer need potato starch—the crucial ingredient in the autochrome process—to render color. But the power of color hasn’t faded over time; all these decades later, the world is still color-mad.

While you can find color theory in any painting classroom, it remains a somewhat overlooked field in the world of photography, so we’re devoting a three-part series of articles to examine colors and the relationships between them. This is just part one–an introduction to the color wheel–so keep an eye out for the rest in the coming months.

The Color Wheel

A color wheel is just a convenient way of visualizing the relationships between colors. The most common wheel used by painters is based on RYB color system–where red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors. Mix those colors, and you end up with secondary colors orange, green, and violet. Combining those results in one of six tertiary colors: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, or red-violet.

Sometimes, however, photographers might use the RGB system–in which case, red, green, and blue are the primaries. Mixing these colors will create secondary colors yellow, cyan, and magenta. The RGB system also has six tertiary colors: orange, chartreuse green, spring green, azure, violet, or rose.

In this brief introduction, we’ll look at six easy ways photographers can use the color wheel and simple “color schemes” to strengthen their compositions. While photographers can certainly use the RGB system, we’ll rely on RYB for right now.

Monochromatic colors

A monochromatic color scheme uses one of the twelve colors on the color wheel with different tints, shades, and tones. You create a tint by adding white to your base color, a shade by adding black, and a tone by adding gray. Photographers can use these schemes to create harmony throughout a composition.

Puchong Pannoi’s photograph of the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar has many layers, from temples to trees to a hot air balloon floating in the distance. While these elements could be distracting in the eyes of another photographer, Pannoi has brought them all together beautifully–with a little help from a monochromatic palette.

Monochromatic color schemes can often be bold. According to photography legend, Ansel Adams was once so displeased upon seeing one of William Eggleston’s most famous monochromatic photos that he remarked, “If you can’t make it good, make it red.” Fortunately, these days dramatic color is not only accepted but embraced–with stunning results. Take a cue from 500px Contributor Estislav Ploshtakov, and use it to make a strong impact.

Complementary colors

For a complementary color palette, use two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. Complementary color schemes are well-suited for photography because they add contrast–resulting in pictures that “pop” off the page and screen. Here, Da Miane uses complementary colors green and red.

In this street photo from Singapore, Peter Stewart uses complementary colors blue and orange. No need for an overly complex composition–these colors catch our eye all on their own.

Split-Complementary Colors

In this variation on a complementary color scheme, you’ll select your base color, and then instead of using the color directly opposite, you’ll use the two colors on either side of it.

In this colorful photo, Claudio de Sat photographs the blue sky against the architecture of East Berlin’s Plattenbauten buildings. He then incorporates hues closer to red-orange and yellow-orange on the color wheel. The result is a striking and harmonious photo with a little bit less of the dramatic tension we’re used to seeing in photos with complementary colors.

Tetradic colors

A tetradic color scheme, sometimes called double-complementary, features a total of four colors, including two sets of complementary colors. Of the basic color schemes we’ll cover here, this one might be the trickiest to pull off–if only for the fact that it incorporates four colors.

This photo by Alena Haurylik does it brilliantly. By using two complementary pairs (orange-blue, green-red) in moderation, it succeeds in being both eye-catching and sophisticated.

Analogous colors

Analogous color schemes incorporate three colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. Wildlife photographer Jonne Seijdel encountered this dazzling Rwenzori three-horned chameleon while traveling through the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda. In this photo, he was able to include side-by-side colors for a pleasing and dynamic result. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given this example, analogous colors are often found in nature.

When using analogous colors, photographers usually choose one dominant color and then use the others in a supporting role. Designers use what they call the “60-30-10 rule”–meaning that the main color (usually primary or secondary) takes up 60% of the space, while a supporting color (secondary or tertiary) takes up 30%, and the final color takes up just 10%.

This photograph by Jovana Rikalo, appropriately titled Orange Dream, features mainly the color orange, with red and yellow accents.

Triadic colors

A triadic color scheme comprises any three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Like complementary colors, these schemes are vibrant and full of contrast. In the majority of situations, these will be the three primary or secondary colors. 500px Contributor Sabrina Hb’s portrait of a woman and fruit in Colombia might be called Yellow, but those touches of blue and red on the woman’s dress complete the photo–giving it that extra “oomph” and vitality.

Designers generally recommend sticking to the three primary or three secondary colors for that “clean” look. Use too many tertiary colors, and you run the risk of a photo that looks muddy. This landscape by Gunar Streu is another perfect example of color done right because it uses the three secondary colors of the RYB color system: orange, violet, and green.

While color theory might be easiest to implement in the studio, these talented photographers remind us that photographers of any genre, from street to wildlife to architecture, can use it to their advantage. Color is a photographer’s playground. Experiment with different schemes, and see what works best for you. We’ll see you again in part two of this three-part series on color theory.

While color theory might be easiest to implement in the studio, these talented photographers remind us that photographers of any genre, from street to wildlife to architecture, can use it to their advantage. Color is a photographer’s playground. Experiment with different schemes, and see what works best for you.

Stay tuned for part two of this three-part series on color theory.

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How to improve your photography with the rule of thirds

Published by Feature Shoot  • 1 week ago

In his view, landscape paintings worked best not when sky and land were given equal weight, but when one or the other took up an entire two-thirds of the canvas. Contrary to popular wisdom, which favored the “formal half” or a one-to-one ratio, he wondered if the most appealing compositions, in fact, featured a different ratio altogether: one-to-two. 

In 1797, the engraver and painter John Thomas Smith, who worked as the keeper of prints at the British Museum, came up with a revolutionary theory. 

Smith’s theory predates the invention of the camera by about twenty years, but these days, we know it as one of the guiding principles of photography. Now, when we discuss composition, we still use the same term Smith coined all those years ago: the rule of thirds.

Once you understand this common photographic technique, you can learn to position your subject in any image so that the photo is both visually balanced and interesting to your viewers. In this article, we’ll explore the rule of thirds and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is one of the easiest ways to experiment with your composition; it is simply a matter of placing the elements in your image so that each of them carries the proper amount of visual weight. 

Imagine you are looking at a tic-tac-toe board. Notice how the lines on that board create three distinct horizontal sections and three distinct vertical sections. There are also four points where the lines intersect. According to the rule of thirds, placing your subject along a line or point on this grid will create a more dynamic composition. 

You have the option to view a rule of thirds grid as an overlay in your DSLR viewfinder, and you can even look for a grid option in the camera settings on your phone. This can be helpful when you’re practicing the rule of thirds, but be wary of using it too much as it may interfere with your ability to visualize other compositions while you shoot. The best way to master the rule of thirds is to practice visualizing it in your mind.

How to use the rule of thirds

New photographers tend to put their subjects in the very center of the frame. While this can result in a strong composition under the right circumstances, it can also create static images that lack interest. 

This is partly due to the way our eyes view a scene: they naturally try to follow the lines and points on the grid, even when the grid is not visible. It’s also due to another compositional element: balanced asymmetry. Usually, your subject will already carry the greatest impact out of all the elements in your image, so it wields a lot of visual weight. By positioning the subject so that it takes up approximately one-third of the image, you’re leaving enough negative space to balance that weight.

In landscapes
Try aligning your horizon line with one of the two horizontal lines on the grid. This keeps your viewer’s eye from getting stuck going side to side. If the sky is distractingly bright, this is an easy way to balance that punch of brightness with the more muted detail in the land portion of your image.

In portraiture
The eyes are usually the focus of a portrait, so try to line up your model’s eyes along the grid to give them high visual exposure. For group portraits, use stools, steps, or natural height strategically to utilize different areas of the grid.

Some things to consider

The rule of thirds is a great “cheat sheet” for getting dynamic compositions out of almost any scene. However, it’s not always the best choice for every photo. If you’re shooting in one of the following circumstances, the rule of thirds might not be right for your image. 

You want something to have a larger-than-life effect
Platon is famous for his in-your-face portraits of celebrities and world leaders. You really get a sense of who they are, and for that kind of impact, the subject is the only thing that matters. Although some of his other work does use the rule of thirds, these pieces would only be hindered by it.

If you already use the rule of thirds too frequently
This rule is meant to stimulate creativity, not inhibit it. If you’ve come to rely heavily on the rule of thirds and notice that a lot of your work is looking eerily similar, it may be time to try something new.

You’re battling lens distortion
If you’re using a wide-angle lens, placing your subject in one of the outer thirds could cause them to appear too distorted. If that’s not the effect you are going for, switch lenses or switch photography rules.

The rule of thirds in post-processing

Sometimes we want a rule of thirds composition, but due to shooting circumstances, it’s not easy or possible on-location. If you’re shooting macro photography of insects, for example, you’re already using a lot of mental energy just to get the right point of focus before your subject moves on. In a situation like that, it can help to shoot just a little wider than you think you need. That leaves you room to crop for the rule of thirds in post-processing.

If you plan to do this, check your camera settings before you shoot. Be sure you are shooting in RAW and give yourself a nice, high-resolution file to work with so that you aren’t cropping away all of your image quality. Keep a copy of the original image in your backups in case you need to go back to the drawing board. 

If you simply want to enhance the rule of thirds effect, you can use an adjustment layer mask (or in Lightroom, an adjustment brush) to draw attention to elements that line up with the grid. You can add a little pop of saturation, enhance the brightness, or do some selective sharpening to draw attention to those areas.

Practice is all it takes to master this rule completely. Try setting up a dedicated shoot for this technique and see how many different compositions you can think of. When you walk around without your camera, try visualizing compositions from the things you see around you that follow the rule of thirds. You can also gain a lot of inspiration from finding examples of images that use the rule of thirds to analyze.

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