Teach Your Child About The Rule Of Thirds

This lesson is about composition. Composition is a big word that means how you position things in your photos. If your kids have played tic tac toe before, then this lesson should be easy to remember.

The Rule of Thirds

When looking through your camera imagine a tic tac toe grid. This grid divides your picture into thirds. Both the horizontal and vertical sections are split into three sections.

Take a look at the picture below. The horizon was not placed directly in the middle. Instead it was placed closer to the bottom of the picture.

“River Landscape (Issel)” by Uwe Potthoff CC BY 2.0

When we place the horizon in the middle it seems like the picture has been cut in half. This is usually not as appealing to our eyes.

Now when we put a tic tac toe grid over the picture you can easily see that the picture has been cut in thirds. 2/3 of the picture is sky and 1/3 is land. This makes the composition more interesting than simply putting the horizon right in the middle.

“River Landscape (Issel)” by Uwe Potthoff CC BY 2.0 – Grid Added


We can also use the rule of thirds when taking pictures of people. The idea is to make sure your main subject is not in the direct middle of your picture.

“Self Portrait” by Loren Kerns CC BY 2.0 – Grid Added

Take a look at the picture above. The man’s head was placed on the upper left intersection. He is also looking back into the picture. We must try to imagine what he is staring at off the right side of the photo.


How can a still picture show movement? Leave room in front of your subjects for them to move into.

“76 Start Runners” by Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0 – Grid Added

The runner in green is the main subject above. The photographer left plenty of room in front of her. We can imagine her running across the picture. Do the same thing for still subjects. Leave room in the direction they are pointing.

You may also notice that her head is not exactly on a thirds intersection. This is OK. The rule of thirds is not absolute. It is merely a guideline to help you make more interesting pictures.

More Examples

When taking pictures of people or animals; try making their eyes the most important part. Place their eyes near an intersection of the tic tac toe grid.

“Hello, Human” by Chi King CC BY 2.0 – Grid Added


“Tree Frog”

Photography rules are made to be broken. You don’t have to use the rule of thirds all the time. But you need to know the rules before you can break them.


  1. Try not to place your subject directly in the middle of your picture.
  2. Imagine a tic tac toe grid as you are setting up a shot.
  3. Place your main subject on one of the intersections.
  4. When taking landscape pictures place the horizon on either the upper or lower third line. Do not place the horizon directly in the middle.


Photo Assignment:

Take a picture using the Rule of Thirds

Click the link above for a printable photo assignment worksheet.


Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?


  1. Hello
    I cannot download the free 16 week photo course for kids. The page is missing.
    Can you please email it to me: leanne.eslteacher@gmail.com

    Thank you

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