Breaking the Rule of Thirds – Tips

# 6 of the Judging a Photograph Series

Today’s image is called Flaming November and it was a winner in a Tree photography competition. In case you’re wondering, if I keep featuring my winning photographs for this series, I’m going to run out of them pretty quickly. I’m not a competition winning machine, I’m not that good. However I wanted to feature this image today because last week I wrote about the rule of thirds. All these rules of composition can be broken but it’s hard to know when. Sometimes I wonder about putting the subject in the middle of a photograph instead of to one side.

Breaking the Rule of Thirds in Photography, tips on Falcondale Life blog. Maple tree in autumn

Spotting a good shot

This gorgeous autumn maple was standing in a small green park area which was really just a traffic island in a West Yorkshire village. The light was super because it picked out the whole colourful treetop against the shade of another huge tree behind. I snapped this shot very quickly but I didn’t hesitate to put the maple tree bang in the centre. Something about the composition just screamed “centre” to me. Now, if you look at the background I think it’s possible to see why it works without having to think about the rule of thirds.

Breaking the Rule of Thirds in Photography, tips on Falcondale Life blog. Maple tree in autumn

Successfully breaking the rule of thirds

First of all this tree is making a real statement of it’s presence – and it was doing it long before I used selective colour to turn the rest of the image monochrome. In this way the image is a bit like a portrait, and I’ve had my wrist slapped in the past for putting my portrait subjects off to the side. So when the subject is so strong, I want to try to get it in the middle. It’s the background that makes this possible. There are three rounded hedges off to the left and trios are always a big positive thing in a photograph.

The large tree framing the top of the image has it’s trunk on the right-hand and lower third line intersection. These background touches make a good balance and allow me to easily and successfully break the rule of thirds when I put the maple in the centre.

I wasn’t thinking it through in this much detail when I shot it. I just knew I was looking at something that felt right. So my tip would be this: When you put the subject in the centre, perhaps try to find something else in the image which adds balance to the composition. It could be something as simple as a tree trunk in the background.

Last week’s post in the Judging a Photograph series can be found here or to read the series from the start, click here. Continue on to the next in the series by clicking here.

Why not follow me on Pinterest? I’ve got one whole board dedicated to photos of beautiful trees and another with photography tips.




  1. 1st March 2017 / 9:48 pm

    Such a lovely photo, you captured the light really well.

  2. 28th February 2017 / 8:10 am

    Oh my goodness, that’s a beautiful photo! It must be so cool to win competitions – totally making all the hard work worthwhile!

  3. 27th February 2017 / 9:13 pm

    Absolutely perfect! I’ve started breaking the rule of thirds for Instagram shots but you’ve inspired me to be more adventurous.

  4. 27th February 2017 / 5:45 pm

    I love the contrast between the monochrome and the beautiful tree. Your right sometimes it is acceptable to break the rule of thirds provided you know how to break the rules.

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