Photography Rules

by Lefju on March 24, 2017 - 2:32pm

A picture is worth a thousand words. Learning to take good photographs is therefore crucial in journalism. Pictures are complementary to journalistic articles, because they allow to catch the attention of the reader. A few basic photography rules are particularly important to know: the rule of thirds, the rule of odds and the rule of space.

To begin, the rule of thirds is probably the most basic of all photography rules. It is about dividing a shot into nice equal sections by imagining vertical and horizontal lines, as it can be seen in figure 1.


Figure 1


Those lines are called ‘’Lines of force’’. Following this rule, the most important elements are placed on one of the lines or where the lines meet. In figure 1, the boat is placed where two lines meet and the eyes are immediately attracted to it, because the composition is well-done. Composition is all the elements of a photograph that are chosen by the photographer. The rule of thirds works well with landscapes, because the horizon can be placed on one of the horizontal lines of force.

To continue, the rule of odds allows the photographer to create a more pleasing and interesting image. The eye is more comfortable when there is an odd number of subjects in the composition. For example, it is better to photograph three flowers than two or four, because of that rule of odds.


Figure 2


The figure 2 demonstrates this well: it would be less attractive if there had been two postcards instead of three. Also, the rule of odds does not matter with larger groups of subjects, as it can be seen in figure 3, because nobody will count the number of subjects in the composition.

Figure 3



Finally, the rule of space is important to know for a journalist because it is mainly used for interviews. Using this rule allows the photographer to create more attractive pictures. The photographer needs to define a ‘’white space’’. White space is not a literal term, it simply means that there is a space without a subject in the photograph, just like the left part of figure 4.



Figure 4


It is like putting someone in a box: the person will need some place to be comfortable in it, just like the subject needs white space to look better in a picture. The white space is always on the side where the subject is looking to let the viewer imagine further than the edges of the photograph. In figure 4, for example, the backpacker is looking on her left, so the rule of space is also applied on her left.

Not all rules can be applied in a single shot. The photographer has to judge which rule is more relevant depending on the context.

To conclude, thinking about photography rules such as the rule of thirds, the rule of odds or the rule of space is important for the beginner photographer. It will eventually come naturally with experience. Sometimes, the photographer also has to unleash his imagination, because rules exist to be broken. 


This is a nice article. I really like all the visual examples, it is important for your subject. Maybe, you should have added a point about " Bad things to do ". For a beginner in photography, this is a great reading to start!

The article is written very well. You explained that the photos of the journalist served to catch the attention of the reader and it made a success with this article also!

I really like the way you explain your informations. It could have been very hard to understand or very annoying because of the complexity of the subject, but in fact, it is very fluid and pleasant to read. I also have to mention that it is nicely illustrate!

I appreciated the visuals. It really helps understanding your tips. I appreciated the conclusion as well (the rules are made to be broken sometimes). Great opening.