Even if you didn’t like fractions…


Not everybody likes fractions. I remember being in school and hearing the complaints. I also remember teachers that didn’t explain them well. I also know of many adults who claim they just hated them growing up. However, like many things in life that we don’t like, fractions are a part of our everyday life. They come into our lives on a regular basis — cutting a pie so that everyone gets a piece, doubling a recipe so you have some to share, figuring out where to stop for the night so your road trip is evenly broken up into three days. All around us, fractions come back from our elementary classrooms to haunt us. Maybe we should have listened to our teacher when her answer to our question, “When am I EVER going to use this?” was “every day!”

Even in the world of photography and scrapbooking, fractions are a part of what we do. One of the oldest and most widely used compositional techniques is called, “THE RULE OF THIRDS.” The “rule” dates all the way back to 1797 where is was given as a rule when proportioning paintings. The rule states that in an image should be imagined as having two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Important features/elements should be placed along one of the intersecting points of these lines. This placement of important aspects of the image creates energy, interest, and tension. Research has shown that these intersections are a more natural place for our eyes to fall, making the image easier (and therefore more pleasant) to look at.


As photographers and scrappers, this is a very important rule to keep in mind. The very nature of art (of which photography and scrapping are a part) is to encourage people to look at something. In doing so, we want to create an experience that is pleasant and conveys the message we are trying to send. By understanding this rule (and later knowing how, when, and why to break it) you can more effectively communicate feeling and emotion to your viewers. Take a look through magazines, photojournals, and books and you will see photo after photo that applies this principle.

Let’s look at a few images to understand the concept better.


In this photo you can see that the young lady’s eye falls on one of the intersections. In portrait photography, you want the viewer to be drawn to the eyes. By placing the eye(s) along one of the intersecting points, it aids as a natural guide for the view to know where to look, where to be drawn in.


In this photo, there are multiple subjects. But as you can see, all of their eyes run along the plane of the top third of the photo.

One of the great things about digital photography and photo editing programs is the ability to crop after-the-fact. I tend to frame shots in-camera the way I want them but I know many photographers who take a lot more in the frame then they will end up with, allowing them great freedom to crop and try different things. Here is an example of a photo I cropped using the rule of thirds.


It is a photo from about a year ago of me with my oldest daughter. It’s a nice photo. It isn’t too horribly centered but it is still a little stagnant and “dry.” In order to give it a little life, I re-cropped it using the rule of thirds:

The principle also applies to landscrapes. Our natural inclination when taking photos is to put the horizon in the middle. But this creates a boring a lifeless picture that is “chopped” in half. For example, look at this photo I took off of our balcony:


And here it is recropped


If you want to see some more great information on cropping and what it can do for a photo, check out THIS article from Pioneer Woman (written by Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions).


The rule of thirds can also apply to scrapbooking. If knowing where to place things on your page leaves you frustrated and confused, you can use this principle to help get your started. Out of curiosity, I looked at some of the layouts that we have posted on THE DAILY DIGI before. I wanted to see if layouts that picked out for other reasons (often because “they jumped out at me”) followed this principle. Sure enough, some of my favorite layouts drew me in with a simple principle at work. Look at what I found…






In all of these you can see how the main parts of the pages were aligned on one of the intersection points/lines. This creates a page that invites the viewer in and stay a bit longer. Interest and energy are gained by something so simple.

So there you have it…even if you didn’t like fractions in school, they are here to stay. Might as well embrace them 😉