Rule of Thirds – Revisited


Today’s simple scenery image of a lone pine tree against a blue sky is a perfect chance to revisit a previous post from last year concerning the Rule of Thirds. Have a great weekend!

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/200 second, f/8, ISO 100

from April 1, 2007:

One of the first things to get emphasized to novice photographers by those who claim to be more knowledgeable is to “Follow the rule of thirds”. While this is sound advice, the phrase can be confusing. Let’s take a few moments and simplify this “Rule” so that we all can use it when making captures regardless of our experience.

Simply put, the Rule of Thirds is a tool to use when composing a photograph. The way I like to instruct it is this: Place four evenly spaced imaginary lines on your image, 2 horizontal and 2 vertical. I have even further simplified it to some (mainly children) by suggesting that they imagine a “tic-tac-toe” board over the photo. Once you can picture the lines, place your subject very near a line and, if possible, arrange the main focal point of the subject where two of the lines intersect. In doing so, you increase the odds that you will create a photo that is visually appealing to how the human mind interprets the image.

Rule of Thirds

For today’s image (above) I took one of my favorite hawk photos and added yellow lines to help illustrate the process. When composing the photo I placed the bird on the right most vertical line. The main focal point of the bird is the eyes and beak, but I found that if I placed them on an intersection the photo was a bit bottom heavy. Instead, I placed the bird’s body where the two nearest lines meet. Doing so creates a pleasing composition since the birds head is close enough to an intersection to take advantage of the rule. Had I taken the same photo and composed it differently by placing the bird in the center of the image, the result would not be as pleasing.

Since I’m on the subject of image composition, the image above demonstrates another “Rule” that can be followed to make a shot more pleasing. In most situations it is desired to have the subject looking toward the center of the image. If the bird were looking to the right rather than the left, the photo would not be as pleasing to the viewer’s eye. In fact, to many people it would just “feel uncomfortable”. The same can be said for motion. If the photo is of a subject in motion, compose it so it is moving toward the image’s center.

Lastly, remember the old phrase “Rules are made to be broken”. There are plenty of times when a more pleasing image can be created by breaking the Rule of Thirds rather than following it. Try using this rule as a guideline and see if your work improves.

February 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm by | Categories: tutorial

Life: Day 8


Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/125 second, f/8, ISO 100

February 28, 2008 at 3:15 pm by | Categories: Post

A Father’s Touch


Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/125 second, f/8, ISO 100

February 27, 2008 at 10:32 am by | Categories: Post

Laboratory Photo Shoot


Ron mixing a scientific concoction.

One of the photo shoots I did last weekend was in a real honest-to-goodness laboratory. A friend offered access to the lab he works in and that was all the motivation I needed to put together a shoot.

With a team of three models and assistance from my friend Harley, we set out to create a series of images for my stock portfolio. My goal was to capture realistic looking images of lab technicians at work. The biggest challenge was setting up lights to create a natural looking scene in the limited space we had to work in. We ended up with a modified cross-lighting arrangement and with the camera position shooting through a narrow opening.

In the Lab
Michelle putting her newly acquired pipetting skills to work.

I must really offer my heartfelt thanks to my friend Bryan for opening up the lab, Harley for helping with the lighting and models Michelle (my wife), Ron and Julie. Without these great folks, we could never have pulled this shoot off.

Dr. Jones, I Presume
Julie, Bryan (our host), Ron and Michelle

February 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm by | Categories: Post

Published: Two Magazine Covers


They’re not Time or Newsweek, but they are magazine covers nonetheless. Two of my images are gracing the covers of current magazines.

I took the above image of my good friend (and fellow photographer) Dale for a feature on him in GlobalHRNews, a magazine aimed at human resource professionals. In addition to the cover, they also used an image of mine inside the magazine to accompany the article.

The next image (below) is a stock shot which turned up on the cover of Techniques, a magazine aimed at soon-to-be graduates. While not my favorite from the series of images of this young man, it does work well with the cover layout.

Published Cover - Techniques

February 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm by | Categories: Post

Rock Star

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Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/200 second, f/4.5, ISO 100

February 23, 2008 at 12:07 pm by | Categories: Post

Photoshop Tip: An Alternative to Brightness/Contrast


When editing my images in Photoshop, I always begin with a couple simple adjustment steps before venturing into the more advanced edits. Since I shoot most of my shots around 1/3 f/stop underexposed (to preserve highlights), the first simple editing step I do is an adjustment to the brightness/contrast of the image. But guess what? I don’t use the brightness/contrast adjustment to do this. I use LEVELS.

By using the LEVELS adjustment, I am able to fine tune the brightness of the image while causing very little damage. This is extremely important in my stock images since they have to go through a rigorous inspection process to be included in my portfolio. Here are the simple steps I use:

1. Create a new LEVELS adjust layer.

2. Slide the upper clipping adjustment (red circle below) down until it is just above the upper end of the histogram.

3. Slide the lower clipping adjustment (blue circle below) up until it is just below the lower end of the histogram.

4. Inspect image and fine tune the adjustments as needed

Levels 2

As you can see in today’s featured image, the sample on the right ‘pops’ quite a bit more than the original on the left. This was done strictly using the levels adjustment. Once I complete this step, I then go on and finish my editing of the image.

If you haven’t tried adjusting brightness/contrast this way, give it a shot and see how well it works for you.

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/160 second, f/4.5, ISO 50

February 22, 2008 at 8:09 am by | Categories: tutorial

Rock Climber

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Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/30 second, f/4.5, ISO 1000

February 21, 2008 at 8:33 am by | Categories: Post

Real People


One of the challenges of doing the Liftestyle type of stock images I do is coming up with models to use. I prefer to use everyday people, since they provide the authentic look I want in my images. I have been extremely blessed to have several people to work with on a regular basis (thank you Jenna, Alyssa, Andrew, etc.), but I am always on the lookout for more.

Today’s image of Jonathan is from last weekend’s Fitness series I shot at a local gym. This was Jonathan’s first time modeling. Since he is someone who is committed to keeping fit by regularly working out, this was a natural shoot for him.

Most of my models work TFCD or TFP in exchange for signing a model release. TFCD is an acronym for Time for CD and TCP is an acronym for Time for Print. This means that the model will receive digital copies of the images in exchange for their time. They are then free to use the images for personal use and portfolio purposes. If I see the results are favorable and begin to use a model on a regular basis, I may then also pay an hourly rate.

I have recently set up an account on to expand my pool of models. I have been in contact with a few models from there, but haven’t put a shoot together yet. Many of the models on the site are more focussed on fashion modeling rather than lifestyle.

And of course, when a model isn’t available there are always family members :)

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/50 second, f/7.1, ISO 100

Note: If you or someone you know is interested in modeling in one of my stock photo shoots (and is in the Northern Utah area), please contact me via email at rich [at]

February 20, 2008 at 10:46 am by | Categories: Post

Put Your Hand In The Air

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Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/160 second, f/6.3, ISO 100

February 19, 2008 at 7:34 am by | Categories: Post