Why the rule of thirds can help you capture better photos of your kids at the big moments

If there’s one thing parents across borders have in common, it’s the incomparable need to capture as many photographs of their little ones as possible. Somehow, through their eyes, everyday activities like the kids brushing their teeth, playing with their toys, or even yawning, become absolute wonders that need to be frozen forever as snapshots. And yet, children are tough subjects to capture on film. They’re constantly moving around, and posing doesn’t come naturally.

How, then, do parents succeed in photographing their kids brilliantly? The answer lies in the rule of thirds.

Although it might seem a little formidable when you call it that, it’s an easy little trick that’ll help transform what would have otherwise been an ordinary, unskilled photograph into an extraordinary, wow-worthy shot that’ll adorn the photo frames on the wall. Basically, it involves dividing the photo into nine grids, using two vertical lines and two horizontal ones. So, that would look something like this –

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You might recognize this from your camera – most cameras, even phone cameras, provide this grid on the viewfinder, allowing you to line up your shots appropriately.

Now, here’s the rule – place the subject (or, in case of an ambiguous subject, the place you want people to look when they see the photo) along a vertical or a horizontal line and at one of the four points of intersection (circled in red).

Like this:

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While the subject of the image is aligned to the side of the image, this image gives you much more than you would get if you took the subject face-on: the background and a sense of space around the subject: less direct, more active.

Why is the rule of thirds great?

1. It’s a simple solution to capture flighty subjects

Children, as every parent knows, find it incredibly difficult to hold a pose. The only way out, then, is to capture their expressions and emotions candidly, and then edit or crop the image to fit the three-point grid. Anyone can capture a subject that’s poised and posing. But to capture life and movement is an art by itself. And not an easy one. The rule of thirds makes it a bit easier, since it does not require the focus of the photograph to be at the center of the grid.

2. It offers more choices for positioning the subject

Parents can simply turn on the grid view on their camera, click away, and still end up with great pictures, because the rule of thirds offers ample options for positioning the central subject of a photo – there are two lines and four intersections. That’s quite a lot, when compared to the one and only central portion. So, big moments like first birthdays, first steps, and first toothy smiles can easily be captured at the blink of an eye, without having to take time to ensure the kid is in the center of the frame.

3. It allows for inclusion of the background

When it comes to photographing most of the big moments in a child’s life, the surroundings play an important role too. For instance, birthday parties look better in 2D when the encompassing décor is included, and involving the stands or the scoreboard in the background make photos of the kids’ first soccer game more appealing. The rule of thirds allows for this, as it leaves ample space for incorporating the background of the subject. So, the photograph ultimately turns out great, as it includes the finer details of the moment it captures.

In order to get better at capturing snapshots that follow the rule of thirds, there’s only one mantra – practice. Keep at it, keep recording all the little and large moments of the little ones’ lives, and down the road, the photos will turn out to be masterpieces that freeze all the best moments of the kids’ childhoods.