Dadtography 101: The Rule of Thirds for Parent Photographers

Welcome to the first post in the Dadtography 101 series, The Rule of Thirds for Parent Photographers. If you're like me, you probably take a lot of photos. But let's be honest, not all of them turn out the best. Our Dadtography 101 posts are simple, actionable tips that won't get too technical or bogged down in the details.

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Are there really "rules" to photography"?

In a word: No (National Geographic agrees). There really aren't any rules to photography.

I'd even go a step further and say that many of my best photos actually break some of the traditional "rules of photography".

Think about the rules of photography for a moment. Rules create standards and standards create similarity. If your photos follow the rules, they will all look alike, or similar. What's the fun in that?

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What do I mean by traditional rules of photography?

Here are just a few:

  1. Don't shoot facing into the sun.
  2. Shoot in the early morning or evening; never shoot mid-day.
  3. Always follow the "rule of thirds".
  4. Follow the lines of the horizon.
  5. Blur is bad.
  6. Stand still.
  7. Follow the viewer's line of site (aka active space rule).

There are way more rules than this, but that's the great thing about photography - you get to ignore the rules. Photography is a creative medium. This is true whether you're a pro or a parent, so one of the first things you need to get out of your mind is that you're shooting "wrong".

What is the "rule of thirds" and why should parent photographers care?

Ok, so w'ere clear that when we say "rules" we really mean more "guidelines", right? As you get better at understanding the rule of thirds, you'll know better about when it's okay to break this rule.

But it's still important to understand what the rule of thirds means and how it applies to you as a parent photographer. The rule of thirds, according to Wikipedia:

Dadtography 101 - Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section.

Blah, blah, blah. Am I right? What does that even mean? To put the "rule of thirds" in a way that actually makes sense, here's how Dadtography would describe it:

Dadtography 101 - Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds for parents means that a standard photo is divided into nine (9) equal sections using four (4) imaginary lines: two horizontal and two vertical. Your subject should align on at least one intersection of of those lines.

The rule of thirds is easy to misunderstand, as is the case with most rules of photography. The bottom line is that it's all about balance. Your photo should (I use that loosely) feel balanced. In other words, you don't want too much or too little of the subject in a certain section of the photo. Below is a gallery of images to use as examples to illustrate what we mean by the "rule of thirds".

"Rule of Thirds" Gallery Examples

Click any photo below to view a larger version. These are examples of Dadtography photos that follow the "rule of thirds".

The Rule of Thirds for Parent Photographers: A Photo Exercise

Ok, so here comes the home work. But don't worry, it's not like college algebra or anything. It will be super easy and it will help you learn more about the rule of thirds. To exercise your "rule of thirds" knowledge a bit, here's what I'd like you to do:

  • Go grab your phone. Go ahead, I'll wait.
  • You back? Okay, open the camera app.
  • Turn the phone on its side (landscape).
  • Grab something (or someone) as the subject of your photo.
  • Line it or them up along those imaginary lines and snap a pic.
  • Open your Instagram app and share the photo using the hashtag #Dadtography101.
  • Come back to this page and marvel in awe. Your photo should appear in the Instagram feed below.

That's it - that's the lesson on the rule of thirds for parents. Do you have any questions? That's cool! Feel free to post in the comments below or send me a note. There's no such thing as a stupid question, so don't be shy!

Check out Dadtography's Photo Tips for Parents Blog Series

At Dadtography, we know how confusing and frustrating it can be trying to learn more about capturing beautiful moments that matter. That's why we put together this special series of photography blog posts geared toward parents and amateurs.

Our tips will speak your language (no technical mumbo jumbo) and will get straight to the point, with actionable steps for you to snap, edit and share better photos starting today!

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