Controlling Our Focus (or Along Those Lines)

This is another reverse-engineering post. This time I am going to be going over the rule of thirds, leading lines, and depth of field in photography. I have some examples from different photographers, and then I have some of my own pictures illustrating the same principles.

The Rule of Thirds

Picture by Shutterstock

The rule of thirds is used to line up subjects in an image to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Imagine a grid that splits the image into nine boxes. At the corners of those boxes is the prime place to line up subjects in a picture. Having lines in the picture (such as the horizon) line up with the edges of the boxes also is pleasing to the eye.

We can see in this picture how the Eiffel tower not only lines up vertically but horizontally as well along the bottom. This makes the image pleasing to look at. The trees and other buildings are located in the bottom third of the picture, which is also nice.

This is a picture I took in my backyard of our chickens. The picture looks nice, but there is a reason.

You’ll notice that both the chicken in the front and the chicken in the upper right are lined up using the rule of thirds. All of the other chickens are also in the top third of the picture. This organizes the picture, and it looks neat.

Leading Lines

Picture by Mickisha Caye

When we are talking about leading lines, we are talking about lines in a photo that guide our eye through the picture. Usually, it is to the point of interest, but other times it is used just to lead our eyes through the photo.

This picture is a clear example of what we are talking about. All of the lines in the shot move into a central spot of the leaf. Even the stem leads to the same place. Our eyes may start out at the far edges because they are brighter, but our eyes naturally follow the lines down to the stem.

Here is a picture I took of my backyard. Where do your eyes go?

I made this picture a little bigger so you can see a bit more clearly. Our eyes end up on the bucket because we have lines from the edge of the driveway, the beaten down grass, the garage door, the roof in the upper left, even the branch of the tree to an extent, pointing towards the bucket.

Depth of Field

Picture by Thomas Shahan

The Depth of Field is used to aim our focus as well, but not in the same way as leading lines. As shown in this photo of a bug, depth of field is used to blur the background so that we are drawn to a particular point.

This picture is heavily blurred in the background. Even the plant and part of the bug’s body are blurry, but it leads to the high contrast in the bug’s head that makes this picture so engaging and exciting to look at.

Here is a picture that I took to represent the principle of depth of field. It is my family’s globe in front of a bookshelf.

As you can see, the globe in the front is completely in focus. We can quickly read the different cities that are located on the globe. The books in the background, however, are blurred out that we can’t read their titles. This makes it so although the bookshelf is in the picture, our focus is drawn to the globe in the foreground. Giving a feeling of depth to our picture even though it is flat.

Conclusion

As shown, by using the rule of thirds, leading lines, and depth of field we can see that ordinary photos can be organized in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to look at. By lining up subjects in a way that our eyes are drawn to them, and then controlling the depth of field to focus on what is important, our pictures will be more interesting.

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