Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I've never (or rarely at least) seen a macro photo which follows the rule of thirds. Is it hard to compose macro photographs using the rule of thirds?

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Excellent question and fascinating observation! –  Unapiedra Aug 24 '13 at 18:44
    
The rules of thirds is not a law. It's a subject placement known to work, that's all. –  nuno_cruz Aug 26 '13 at 8:11
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6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are macro shoots that rule of thirds are applied successfully but there are reasons for it to be not applied.

  • The subject might be interesting enough that no additional composition technique is needed.
  • The shallow depth of field might limit the options for the composition

There are also several reasons for the centre composition

  • Lenses tend to give their sharpest images at their centers
  • the fast Autofocus points are often placed on the center area of the AF sensor
  • The spot metering also uses the center area in the frame
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lovely answer ! –  Sourav Aug 27 '13 at 14:01
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I'd say it all depends on the artists vision rather more so than any technical limitation:

  1. I am in the middle of taking macro pics of matchbox toy cars I had as a child. The style I am going for is lighting just the car over a 100% black background and shooting at f32 (and getting the DOF covering a good 1/4 to 1/3 of a car's length). Because of the clean background I can position the subject how I want, but I am ending up with classical looking pics that are tending to rule of thirds.

  2. Today I was at a botanical garden and found myself taking macro shots of the vein patterns in leaves. Again I was drawn more to images that had off center patterns that again were tending to rule of thirds a lot of the time.

Yes the depth of field limitation can be a hinderance, and positioning a camera to get the orientation correct can be tricky, but those issues just become other constraints that you have to deal with in visualizing your image.

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show us one of your shots please! I love matchbox cars when I was a kid. –  Paul Cezanne Aug 24 '13 at 22:06
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1/3 rules is used in macro. Not necessary by person starting in the field as you need experience to be able to do some composition with a living insect but I think that some very interesting macro are catchy due to their composition and some (most) follow the thirds rules.

As example here are picture picked in today 500px flow...

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+1 for showing some proofs :) –  Sourav Aug 26 '13 at 14:19
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I think the reason it seems like they don't is that macro tends to be focused on a single subject that is the bulk of the image, so most Macro shots favor centered subject over thirds based composition, but there certainly are examples where the rule of thirds is used in the composition of a macro shot and there is no formal or technical reason why it can't be other than the difficulty in finding a macro subject where it would fit well within the very limited depth of field.

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Reexamine your understanding of the rule. Often, the rule is illustrated with over-simplified examples so that the concept can be understood. As an example, an object is often placed against a background so that the subject is a third into the shot, say.

In a more subtle case, blood platelet coagulation comparison can be made with an open vein at one point (upper-left) and a blocked vein at the opposite (lower-right) intersection.

It's a matter of an artistic eye in addition to technical competency.

Here's another reason. Psychologically, in order to get the best macro effect, you must close-crop all the extra stuff out of the shot.

If your shot isn't good enough, you're not close enough.

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The above answers lay out various reasons why: 1. Artistic Vision, 2. Subject and Background issues, 3. A novice's ability to use composition rules etc.

I am responding just from personal experience. I started shooting Macro in August 2006, and it forms a significant portion of my work. I also have had some training through classes and reading and understand the rule of thirds.

And, just like composition rules and techniques such as Bokkeh (or Bokeh), excessively saturated photos, or any of the hundreds of "rules", I grow tired of the rule of thirds at times. So, in my work, many times, I just chuck it. Plus, I work as an engineer to feed my photography expenses, and trained in symmetry and positioning, I suppose many of us see the beauty in that as well.

Learn the rules, and then break them as you see fit.

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+1 for "Learn the rules, and then break them as you see fit." –  alikox Sep 21 '13 at 11:21
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