Playing the thirds against the fifths
Greetings Holy Crop! fans,
I’ve just returned from teaching my Badlands Winter Workshop at Badlands National Park. The Queen of the Crop and I took 8 photographers around the park chasing sunrise, sunset and all the critters in between. Of course, in the non-shooting hours we taught image editing techniques with composition and cropping figuring heavily into our curriculum.
The shot above is from one of our afternoon drives. This old car sits on a hilltop near the park and makes for a tempting target for driver’s by. I thought this might make an interesting image to discuss briefly the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of Fifths.
To begin, I ask myself: “Of what is this a picture?” In other words, what is the star-the subject. It is a picture of…
The answer: “A Car”
The car is the star. It should occupy the most important part of the frame. I have overlaid a rule of thirds grid to show that we have placed the focal point of the car, in this case where the missing driver’s face would be, at the lower right rule of thirds. The car is facing into the frame and the space is left in front of the car to satisfy the rule of space. The car isn’t moving so the rule of motion isn’t as important. In this shot, the car is a face looking semi-hard left. It needs space into which to stare.
Secondary to the car is the sky-particularly the sun. The sun is fairly small in frame but the extremely bright area is fairly large. Even though we discussed sun placement in a previous article as being stretchable to the rule of sevenths, here a rule of fifths is an appropriate placement. Keeping the sun near the upper left rule of fifths gives us ample space to hold the sun in the picture.
The sky is awesome in this image. We need just enough land to ground the car and contain it in the frame. Keeping the horizon near the rule of fifths lets the sky dominate the remainder of the picture. A rule of thirds placement would have left too much foreground and lessened the sky’s impact. The rule of fifths grid overlaid here shows clearly the rule of space choices. There is twice as much space in front of the car as behind. There is four times as much sky as ground.
Playing the rule of thirds against the rule of fifths is a good way to start your composition both in-camera and in post production.
- Start by putting your subject on the most obvious rule of thirds.
- Put your secondary subject on the opposite rule of fifths in a way that balances the relative size and weight of the two opposing focal points.
- Lastly, chose a horizon placement that reflects the relative strengths of sky and land.
- Tweak to taste.
Rikk Flohr © 2011