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Better Travel Pictures: Composition and the Rule of Thirds

Written By | Feb 25, 2017

The motorboat off of Venice to the right of the picture is an excellent example of the “rule of thirds”, with the water and background providing compositional depth. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

WASHINGTON, February 24, 2017 – So many times, people think they have to center everything they photograph. While that is OK for some photos, it is frequently not always the case. Using the rule of thirds can make for more interesting images by paying attention to the composition of your photographs.

Picture your image in thirds. Try putting the focus of your shot in one of the outside thirds instead of the middle, either the left or the right, or for that matter, the bottom or the top third of the picture.

A gondola in the foreground at the bottom third of the picture stands in contrast to the depth created by the middle third and Santa Maria della Salute in the background at top.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Using the rule of thirds will draw the person into your image from one side to the other, or from the top to the bottom, rather than just the middle of the image.

The lights along a Venetian side street draws you in to the left of the picture, accented by contrast by the reflections of the canal and the darker third of the background to the right. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Notice the examples posted. The image of a canal in Venice, Italy has the area with the boat and people off to the left side. The viewer is pulled into the shot on the left and is taken into the rest of the image due to the canal and the way it curves.

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With a digital camera you can take different compositions of the same scene and see which ones you like. This works well as you can do your editing and see which image works best for you.

The light of the Kona sunset on the left adds emphasis to the architecture of the Royal Kona Resort featured in the right upper third of the image. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

As in all things there are rules, and sometimes breaking them is the best choice, but you can’t break the rules unless you know them in the first place. Experimentation is where art happens.

Some people will immediately have the instinctive ‘eye’ for this type of photo composition. Creative people will have an easier time making this concept work for them. So be creative.

You may want to differ your angle on a shot. Maybe try one from a very low angle. You never know what trying new things can teach you.

Photography can be very rewarding, especially the process of learning new things when you just try something you have never done before.

The staircase in the left foreground of the photo draws the eye to the Matre’d at Il Falconierre entering the kitchen in the right side background. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

When shooting travel photos, be sure you have a lens that is somewhat wide. My favorite lens is a zoom 18 to 55mm. When using it at 18mm you will get more of your shot in focus. This is because your depth of field is longer.

Depth of field is the amount of space that will be in focus. A wide angle lense will get your image more in focus than a long lens as in a 55 to 200 lens.

When shooting travel images this is what you want. Try shooting with the 200mm and as you will see the background, if not right behind your subject, will be out of focus.

This is used a lot in fashion shoots. The clothing stands out by being in focus. If you do not want to haul around a lot of equipment then leave this lens at home when you travel.

If you want a photo of a group of people then go to the other end and shoot the image with 55 mm. The people will be in focus and the background will not be that out of focus but will be slightly blurred.

Make sure you choose your background so that there is nothing in background that looks funny, like a pole coming out of someone’s head.

Wider lenses as a 10 to 20mm will have some distortion on buildings that are closer to you. These take a bit of time getting used to when they are appropriate to use. With digital you can see the image and change lenses if needed.

Panoramic lenses are nice when shooting a scene that calls for it. But then again, you may not want to carry so much equipment.

Travel should be fun, and so should travel photography. That is why composition, the rule of thirds, and using the right lenses are all important to understand in order to get the type of great photos we all want to create that truly memorialize the good times and wonderful places we have seen.

Alison Reynolds is a renowned Los Angeles photographer.

Facebook: Alison Reynolds Photography

Twitter: @BigAlPeoplesPal

Alison’s husband is CDN travel writer Joel Berliner: @JoelBerliner

CDN travel articles featuring Alison’s photography can be found at:

Alison Reynolds

Alison Reynolds is a renowned Los Angeles photographer who has shot many times for Playboy magazine, photographed numerous celebrities, actorustrys, and titans of ind, and is very pleased to be a part of CDN and share her luscious travel photography in the articles of her husband, CDN travel writer Joel Berliner, and here in these special Photo Tripping with Alison Reynolds slideshows.