Divide your frame into 9 identical rectangles separated by a Tic-Tac-Toe grid. Place the points of interest where the grid lines intersect. Your camera and your photoeditor software probably have an option to show the Rule-of-Thirds grid on your viewfinder screen
Also, have the "action" moving into the frame, not out of it.
This photo is centered (a mistake I often make):
So I cropped it. His face and chest are 1/3 from the right edge. His face is 1/3 from the top edge. His chest is 1/3 from the bottom edge. And now, he seems to be looking into the frame, not out of it:
The cropping also makes him look nearer, and Rule #1 is: Get Close.
If you get back a bit and include some extra "waste" space at the margins of your photo, this gives you more wiggle-room for cropping later.
Look at my avatar picture. See how the mountain and the dog's face are dead-center? It would probably be a better photo if I'd used the rule of thirds.
Interesting John, I am always centering my photos, for the most part!! Will have to try this!
Hi John. I agree that the rule of thirds is a nice starting point, but I think the bigger issue is negative space that is unrelatable to the subject.
In your example, the corgi (is it Gwynnie?) has no interest in the empty space behind her but IS looking stoically to the left, and that's why cropping out the right portion makes a more satisfying composition. Here is an example of "something" in the space behind the primary subject that I thought was more effective than giving more real estate to where the dragon was looking:
Also, I think there are times when if the picture has some nice symmetry or balanced contrast centering can work much better than the rule of thirds sweet spots well as long as there isn't a vast ocean of negative space surrounding the subject:
All that said, I DO leave the 3x3 guidelines on when taking/editing photos.
Good point, John. Getting a handle on the basics of composition is an important step in progressing as a photographer. I generally work within the the Rule of Thirds guidelines but still subscribe to Ansel Adams' idea "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."
Another interesting guide to keep in mind is the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio. Fun video about it here, Some simple overlay software here if you want to try and apply it to your photos.I see so many photos that would be improved 100% if people would just straighten the horizon!