Free Rule of Thirds and Golden Mean Actions

As you are learning composition, the so-called "Rule" of Thirds can be helpful. I prefer to use it as a guideline, rather than a rule, but I do find it useful when making compositional decisions.

To use the rule of thirds when shooting, visualize a 3 x 3 grid overlaying the scene you see in your viewfinder or LCD. When composing your shot, try to locate the main objects in your photo at the intersection of these grid lines. In other words, place your main objects 1/3 up from the bottom and 1/3 over from the left, or 1/3 down from the top and 1/3 over from the right, etc.

Some folks think the Golden Mean is a better compositional guideline.


Our Image

As an example, let's see how this photo measures up to the Rule of Thirds.

With the Rule of Thirds Grid

Here's what we see after we run the Rule of Thirds Action.

We see that several of our main compositional elements fall on the lines or the intersection of two lines.

Would the image be improved if the vertical line at the right went through the middle of the walkway, instead of the left post? Or does the current composition provide more "tension?" This is the kind of analysis you can do on your images.

Another example

Let's see how this photo measures up to the Golden Mean. Does that tree appear to be in the "right" place?
Image to be analyzed using Golden Mean

With the Golden Mean Grid

Here's what we see after we run the Golden Mean Action.

It appears that we can be pretty happy about where we put that tree :)
Analyzed using Golden Mean

One More Example, Using both the Rule of Thirds and The Golden Mean

The red lines represent the Rule of Thirds grid, and the golden lines represent the Golden Mean Grid.
Rule of Thirds and Golden Mean grids together

Free Actions

If you'd like to see how your photos "measure up" against the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Mean, we have some FREE actions that can help:
  1. Download the appropriate file below and save it to your hard disk.
  2. Unzip it.
  3. Follow the instructions in the ReadMe file to install the actions.
for Photoshop

for Photoshop Elements 1-5

for Photoshop Elements 6

for Photoshop Elements 7 and later

More Advanced Actions

If you'd like a more advanced action that will help you crop your images to conform to the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Mean, check out our Rule of Thirds Pro Actions:

for Photoshop

Not available for Photoshop Elements