The rule of thirds is really a set of guidelines… literally. One of the most basic ‘rules’ of composition is seemingly easy to understand, but in practice many have a hard time putting it to good use. Even a simple ⅓ grid is useless if the complexity of the scene overwhelms the photographer. So… here is one simple tip for applying the rule of thirds to people.
Place the upper ⅓ line right through the subject’s eyes. Yup… it works with virtually any crop. If you have multiple people in the shot, put the top ⅓ line through the top set of eyes.
Don’t worry about working with all four grid lines or the four intersecting focal points. Just put that one line through your subject’s eyes. Recompose your shot in as many ways as you want – high angle, low angle, tight crop, or wide – just make sure that with each framing of the subject, the eyes are close to that ⅓ from the top line. In the photos above, note how the eyes are essentially level with each other even in these two very different crops.
You will find it is easier to hinge your composition on this one concept rather than trying to think about multiple composition ‘rules’ at the same time. The rest of the composition will then tend to fall into place.