When I use Center of Interest Well, It Sounds Like I am Using Rule of Thirds. Is This True?

Great Question:
Hi Say,

I have read about both center of interest and rule of thirds and am a little confused between the two. I know for rule of thirds it is best to place the subject in one of the four intersections on the grid. However, center of interest also says that usually the subject is not placed right in the center, which kind of makes it rule of thirds, right? Are these two pretty much the same? If you could further explain to me the differences or similarity between the two that would be great!



Thanks for your question.

Center of interest just means having a strong subject or something of interest. Often, photos that have better eye movement throughout the photo when the subject is off center – like the rule of thirds. When you center something in the photo, it becomes more like a target and less like a subject in its environment. This means your viewer looks at only part of the photograph, not all of it. The idea of using composition well is to create eye movement from your viewer throughout your photo, not just the center of the photo.

We use ‘centering’ well when we want the subject to have a sense of isolation or the photo is of a product shot with a clean background…. or mugshots. In mugshots, the idea is to be able to identify a person and nothing else is important. When we photograph people in the center of the framing (school portraits is another example) it’s best to work to keep the eyes in the rule of thirds. Otherwise, try photographing your model off center (like the rule of thirds) and see how much more interesting your photos are to look at.

Keep in mind, composing a photo is all about experimentation. Sometimes when I photograph something I will bracket the composition. This means I will take the photo horizontal, vertical, using thirds, breaking thirds, move around to get a different angle. Often, my first photo is not the strongest. It’s when I start playing with the composition that I find I can create a more compelling photo.

In a nutshell, using more the one rule at a time to create a photo often creates a stronger photo that is more pleasing to the eye.  If this means that your subject (center of interest) is in the rule of thirds, then that is great!

Hope this helps,