When we first start taking photos or filming people on video, we tend to put the subject of our filming right smack in the middle of the camera frame. It seems like the right thing to do, but actually, it is a big no-no!
The “Rule of Thirds” has been well-known to artists for centuries. It is also one of the first concepts taught in courses to photographers and video camera operators. The “Rule of Thirds” teaches us how to create balanced and interesting compositions within the camera frame.
The basic principle behind the Rule of Thirds is to overlay an imaginary 3 by 3 grid on top of what you see within the camera frame. Thus, you break an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 squares in the frame like the image below.
How to Apply the Rule of Thirds
Imagine you can see this grid whenever you look into the camera viewfinder. In theory, the most eye-catching points on the screen are where the grid lines intersect i.e. at those red “plus signs” you can see in the image above.
The Most Important Application of the Rule of Thirds
Instead of placing the person (or object) being filmed in the dead center of the camera frame, the visual appearance will look better if they appear slightly off to one side. For example, the presenter will look better if they line up with one the two vertical lines on the grid. Alternatively, if you are filming outdoors, the visual appearance will look better if you also align the horizon with one of the two horizontal lines.
Do you Give a “F”?
Eye tracking research suggests that the first area to attract the viewers’ attention on a screen is the area at the top left. People then look down, and then across the top of the screen. In simple terms, their eyes scan the screen in the shape of a capital “F”. This applies to websites, photos, and when viewing a film.
What do you Consider to be the Most Important Thing in Each Shot?
Is it the presenter? Is it an object? Is it a background image? Or is it some key text messages you want the audience to read?
Depending on what you want your viewer to focus on, you can choose to position the presenter on the left vertical line, or the right vertical line, and arrange the rest of your composition accordingly.
Keep this imaginary grid in mind when you are filming so you can apply the Rule of Thirds in your video presentations.