The Rule of Thirds in Video: What It Is and How to Use It

If you've purchased a point-and-shoot camera, you may have noticed a mode on it that places a grid of nine squares over top of your viewfinder. If you've ever wondered what that grid is for, this post will help clear it up for you. The grid is designed to cover a very important concept in photography, and by extension, videography. That concept is the rule of thirds. So, what exactly is this rule of thirds grid for? Let's take a look.

What is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is all about creating an aesthetically pleasing image. To become an expert at shot composition, you need many years of experience with what does and doesn't work and all sorts of real-world experience that you can transfer over to your given scenario. However, anyone who understands the rule of thirds can immediately begin creating shots that are much more pleasing to the eye than someone who doesn't.

To define the rule of thirds is simple, you want to divide your shot into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and place the most important elements of the shot on those imaginary lines or intersection points. Now you can see how helpful that grid is. It divides your shot perfectly, so you don't have to rely on your imagination to get the spacing correct.

As a very basic example of the rule of thirds, look at almost any professionally shot video or picture that contains a horizon line. The horizon will almost always be positioned on the top or bottom line in the rule of thirds grid. Keep in mind this won't always be the case. If the photographer has decided that something else is more important to the framing of the shot, that thing may be positioned on one of those lines.

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Why is the rule of thirds important?

Merely understanding what the rule of thirds is for begins to explain a part of what makes it important. Anything that can take your shots from looking like they came from an amateur to look like those of a budding professional is an important tool to have in your arsenal. But that doesn't really explain why it works.

The eye naturally wants to wander around an image. You don't stare directly at the center of a photograph when you look at it. By putting your important objects off-center, you are allowing your eye to behave in the way it does naturally. Equally importantly, you are creating space that allows your eye to explore more fully the image, rather than fixating intently on whatever the subject is.

How to use the rule of thirds in video

Using the rule of thirds in the video is a lot like using it in still photography. If you are lucky enough to have a locked camera position and a scene without much movement, then it's exactly the same as using it in photography. The trick is to find out what you want the focal points of the image to be. Sometimes this is easy. Notice how many interviews have the person talking shot from an angle, so they are off-center a little? That's the rule of thirds, applied to a very simple scenario.

Other times, you may have several elements interacting with one another. The demands of a shot aren't always going to allow you to frame each element that interacts with something in the grid perfectly. Rather than looking more natural, that would look more artificial. In those instances, try to find a way to group items, so the shot as a whole is on the grid lines.


Like anything, mastering the rule of thirds will take time, especially as your shots grow more complex. But it is an age-old composition technique that predates the invention of photography. When you use it, you'll not only be following in the footsteps of your favorite photographers or cinematographers but also your favorite painters.

As you become a master of taking the perfect shot, you'll need some great software to do those shots justice in post-production. VideoStudio is a professional quality video editing package that's easy for beginners to pick up and start experimenting with, just like the rule of thirds.

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