Divide and conquer 

The beauty of shooting in thirds

If your photos aren't half what they could be, try using the "rule of thirds." The simple compositional guideline—long used by designers and artists—requires that you imagine two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, basically a tic-tac-toe board imposed on your viewfinder.

By framing the key subject of a photograph—in this case, tele-skier Ryan Shaffer—on or near one of the four intersecting points in the imaginary grid, you immediately bump up the tension and dynamic feel of the image.

click to enlarge Montana Headwall

This photo exploits the rule to varying degrees—that's obvious with Shaffer in the lower right. More subtly, the rock outcropping occupies an intersection in the upper left, and the horizon extends diagonally through the same two intersections. (See other examples on the cover and page 47.)

Of course, horizon lines are rarely diagonal, and frequently horizontal. To make them eye-catching, try tipping the camera up and down to align the horizon with the top or bottom thirds line, then fire the shutter. (If you snap a frame with the horizon dead-centered, viewers are likely to yawn.)

Visionary shooters take it to the next level, applying the rule to frame elements of light, color or shapes. But don't worry if your subject didn't line up perfectly in-camera: You can also follow the rule by cropping images on the computer. Keep things off-center, and your shots will hit the mark.

We know you're out there, having epics and snapping photos. Instead of cursing them with an anonymous death in hard-drive purgatory, go for the glory and send your best images to us at hweditor@mtheadwall.com. Include the location, your name, the names of all people shown and any information you think is useful. We'll take it from there.

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