I beat the drum a lot about the Rule of Thirds (ROT). I teach it in my classes, I evaluate pictures based on it, and it guides my own photography. I recently took a picture of a Redbud tree with a Wild Turkey in the blurred background and found that ROT didn't work. Instead, the original, centered picture did.
Below is the picture straight out of the camera
And here is the imaged cropped to put the turkey in a more ROT location.
When I cropped to the second version, it just didn't feel right. I preferred the first, uncropped version. It's really a matter of taste, but for some reason, I preferred the first picture. Why?
I have three guesses:
1. By leaving it uncropped, I left the branches on the left. They provide framing of the turkey which is mirrored on the right and which together form kind of a triangle around the turkey.
2. The second picture lets the Redbud branch extend all the way to the end. I wonder if, by cutting it off, a feeling of incompleteness is created.
3. I have the impression that the cropped version is a little more crowded. I get an almost claustrophobic feeling when looking at the second picture.
When you talk about the Rule of Thirds, it's not about magically placing the subject in a position offset from the center. It's about evaluating the picture to see what can be eliminated. Where is the wasted space? How can more balance be achieved? In other words, forcing yourself to critically examine the picture.
In most pictures where the subject is centered, there is some wasted space in the picture. Moving the subject off-center by eliminating that worthless real estate will usually improve the picture. But when I did so in this instance, I found that there really wasn't any wasted space and the first image was, to me, more agreeable.
Your mileage may vary.
March 24, 2012
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