humor, language, photography

Waldo Lemonsucker & Rule of Thirds — Part 1 of 2

Where there are rules, there are people like Waldo, more intent on abiding by the rules than accomplishing the mission, even when the rules are oversimplified guidelines w/o the force of law.  It’s hard to formulate a rule of thumb in a way that is simple to learn and remember but adequate for the real world.  One example is the Rule of Thirds in photography.  Let’s try for a less exception-riddled formulation.

Part 1 of 2: Subjects & Stories

Here is one wording of the most oversimplified version of the Rule of Thirds that I have seen:

Put the subject near one of the 4 sweet spots defined by the intersections of evenly spaced grid lines, 2 horizontal and 2 vertical.

The phrase [the subject] raises red flags.  Whatever subjects may be, Waldo just assumes there is exactly one of them (no more and no less).  He just assumes that “the” subject is (and should be) a part of the image that is small enough to be much closer to one of the sweet spots than the others.

The top hits in a Google search do better than Waldo.  They say “a subject” (rather than “the subject”) or use clunky phrases like [important compositional elements] and recognize that there may be several.  There is still a gap between theory and practice.  The following example is not as sharp as it should be, but it’s adequate for my purpose and has the advantage that I know what story the photographer wanted to tell and how the photo was taken and edited.


Yes, one could say that the image has 2 subjects (a vase and some seed pods of a silver dollar plant), with the pods near a sweet spot and the vase straddling a grid line.  Such straddling is a recognized backup option for subjects that are tall like the vase or wide like the horizon line.  Did I apply the Rule of Thirds?  Nope.

I cropped the image to center the whole bouquet (vase and pods) in the frame.  For such an irregular shape, the yellow lines added below illustrate what I mean by the word [center] here.  They are all roughly the same length.  They are longer than necessary for the bouquet because I wanted to show more of the magenta cloth.  It’s a story about balance, not sweet spots.


Want a hint at how Part 2 will try to say where the Rule of Thirds applies?  Look again at Waldo’s tacit assumptions.

– Gray button (upper left corner) reveals widgets, –
– above post (on phone) or beside it (on desktop). –

2 thoughts on “Waldo Lemonsucker & Rule of Thirds — Part 1 of 2

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