Rule of Thirds: Improving plant photos.

The photo challenge this week really got me interested.

I was a bit shocked to find that not many of my plant photos obeyed this rule, so the other day I went out in the garden armed with my macro lens in an attempt to rectify this state of affairs.

For those that don’t know about this rule, it is all to do with where in the photo layout you put the main subject. (It is also to do with where things like horizons are placed, but that is another story.)

If you divide your photo into 9 areas using two vertical and two horizontal lines then you have a guide as to the best place to put the main features i.e. on one of the line intersections.

I was aware of the rule as I was taking my pictures, but as always a degree of cropping was still needed. I thought it would be useful for both myself and  others to experiment a bit with the layouts of the photos. Please do comment on the results; all constructive opinions are valued.

Here is a starter photo of some winter aconites.

aconite large

You can see firstly that it is overexposed – something that happens all to easily with bright subjects. Also there is a distracting white mark in the background and an out of focus flower in the foreground.

I cropped the photo, grouping the Aconites around the bottom right intersection.

Then exposure was reduced and highlights increased showing more detail on the petals and darkening the background.


With grid

With grid



Here are some more photos, before and after.

Crocus original

Crocus original

A bit of tweaking, reducing exposure and slightly upping the colour saturation, helped, as well as putting the orange stamen exactly on the top right intersection.

Crocus on third

Crocus obeying rule of thirds.

But it looked even better when it was cropped to a square size, still with the stamen on that intersection point.

crocus finished

Crocus in square format

This cyclamen photo doesn’t look anything special, in fact it looks a bit silly stuck up in the middle of the picture.

Cyclamen original

Cyclamen original

When the cyclamen takes up almost all the frame and is on the top left intersection it is much better.

Cyclamen finished

Cyclamen finished

I hope you agree that the cropped photographs all look better than the originals – this is an easy technique well worth trying.


16 thoughts on “Rule of Thirds: Improving plant photos.

  1. Pingback: Improving plant photos | My Aberdeen Garden

  2. Pingback: 15-02-23 Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule Of Thirds (3/3) (Golden) | The Quotidian Hudson

  3. Your photos have improved a great deal since I first read your blog Annette. There’s so much to learn… all the techy stuff and then the artistic side too. You have proved that putting the time and effort in really pays off. What’s more it looks like you’ve been getting close to your subjects by lying on the ground. Now that’s dedication for you! Well done indeed.


    • Thank you, Gillian. Of course having a decent macro lens helps too – that and looking at wonderful photos on other people’s blogs, yourself included. Yes I am often to be found kneeling or lying on the ground – there is no other way!


  4. Overexposure can be so frustrating for me. I’ve been having trouble with it when I use any settings but M and even then, I keept changing aperture and shutter speed to find the right balance. The best helper for me, besides more practice, is taking a photo on auto and then seeing what settings the camera uses. How about you?


    • I tend to use manual most of the time now and use a graduated scale in the viewfinder to see if I have it right. I take a photo and then look at the red,green blue histogram that you can see with your photo to see if I have done the best exposure. You would have to look it up for your camera. I also take in raw and often adjust the exposure afterwards. But yes, all that has taken me a while to get the hang of. If you are using auto it sometimes helps to zoom in to different parts of the picture to check the exposure and then lock it so it doesn’t change. I haven’t got the hang of that yet!


      • That’s a good idea about using the histogram. I’ll have to look it up. I have used the scale but I stopped using it a while ago as it didn’t seem to match with what the photo showed. I’m not sure why and havent looked into it more. Do you see a big difference using raw? I haven’t gone that route yet since I don’t have software to convert it. That’s a good idea about zooming in. I learned the trick of focusing away and then back on an object if autofocus won’t let you take a pic. I had to use that a little while ago and it worked well but then again, I haven’t taken a closer look at those photos. 😀


      • I am not sure what I can do with raw that I can’t do with JPEG, but we just started using raw after doing a course. Luckily I have iPhoto on my Mac that allows you to edit quite easily making a big difference. If autofocus is not working I usually focus manually. Practice helps but a course my husband and I did really got us going with digital photography.

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