Composition: The Rule of Thirds

Shawn M. Kent "Solitude" (2001) CC by-nc-sa

Shawn M. Kent “Solitude” (2001) CC by-nc-sa

It is essential that developing photographers have a firm understanding on compositional principles. This is the first in a series of articles where we will be talking about the rules of composition. Starting with the very basics and working up to the more complex. This first tutorial will talk about the classic rule of thirds composition rule.

Now this is the part of the tutorial where we say the obligatory “there are no rules in photography”.

I hate that statement. Of course there are rules! Rules are broken all the time, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valid rules, or that you should ignore them. They exist for a reason and this article will dissect those reasons.

As well this is not a tutorial written only for beginners. I meet many pro photographers who only know the very basic concepts of the rule of thirds. For that reason I have tried to go as in depth as possible to dissect the principle.

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Home Is Where the Heart Is…

Home Is Where the Heart Is (2014)

Home Is Where the Heart Is – Shawn M. Kent (2014)

Home is Where the Heart Is

After a week away in Ottawa, I snuck out last night to go on a shoot with my son, Max. I’d been meaning for some time to re-shoot the Creemore Emporium, as the original was shot on an older Canon body (3.3 megapixels).

Unfortunately nothing remarkable came of the outing. Instead Max and I came across this lovely abandoned farmstead on the way home. As with all abandoned properties I am careful to approach it slowly. I started by shooting a bunch from the road at distance and nothing was really coming together.

I loved the old oak tree and the way it looked like a wonderful property once upon a time. I imagined children playing in the yard and scrambling up through the trees majestic branches. Despite it’s ruin I sensed it was a happy place once upon a time. After a few minutes and no traffic or inquisitive neighbors I drove up the driveway to the house. I climbed out of the sunroof of my truck and stood on the roof. From there I shot a series of panoramic shots of which the stitched result is below.

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Going Prime

Canon Camera with Prime lens. Image credit:  Alexander Gref  CC-by
Canon Camera with Prime Lens
Image credit: Alexander Gref CC-by

As more and more folks are spending the extra money to buy a “nice” camera, I often get asked what kind of camera they should buy. The short answer is the camera doesn’t matter, the lens does. As a photographer you will replace your body 3-4 times in ten years, but you’ll probably pass your lenses on to your children. You will fall in love with your glass, not your camera body. So for those of you thinking of buying a “nice” camera, pick a brand, even buy a decent body, but save your money for your first lens.

The next obvious question is what lens to buy? Well I definitely have an opinion about that…
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Black and White Processing Workshop


Vulture's Roost Image

Subtle adjustment of tone and detail are the secret to Black and White Photography.

Join me June 8th to learn the steps behind my process for going from colour images to detailed and rich black and white images.


I will be covering the specific tricks and techniques I use when shooting, the importance of visualizing zones, and then processing that image in post using Lightroom software to get the desired effect.

I will also be briefly showing the use of Nik SilverFX Pro to add that last bit of polish to my images.

Please join me for this absolutely free, no strings attached, no BS workshop.

Who: You, and me, and a few of our friends

What: Free Workshop

Where: Google Hangout/Youtube. Here is the event page for you to participate at the date and time:

When: Sunday, 8 June 2014 @ 1:00pm (Eastern Standard Time)

See you then!


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Photographic Masters: George Hurrell

George Hurrell at Work


The “Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait”, George Hurrell defined the look of glamorous Hollywood during it’s golden age of the thirties and forties. A master of dramatic lighting, the Kentucky born photographer mastered the art of lighting and shooting beautiful people. He rapidly attained the position of Head of MGM’s Photography Department and shot every star contracted to the studio. From there he worked for Warner Brothers and eventually Columbia. His dramatic shots defined the look and character of Hollywood’s elite in that era. Continue reading »

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