If you want to create photos that are pleasing to the eye then listen up! There’s a wonderful photography rule of thumb, known as the rule of thirds, that can make your composition more interesting.

What is the rule of thirds?

Divide a photo into nine squares using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Anything of importance should be placed along the lines or at their intersections. For example, a horizon line should sit directly on one of these lines and a tree should be placed at the intersection of two lines.

Why should I use the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds creates balance, and balance is aesthetically pleasing! The intention is to avoid dividing a photo in half by a horizon line or placing the subject directly in the center.

How do I use this rule with Instagram?

Glad you asked! If you’ve upgraded to iOS 5, Apple has made this process very easy by implementing an edit feature. Along with several other features Edit includes a crop so you can make sure your photo is a square, and a grid so you can use the rule of thirds! Check out the photos below to try this on your own iOS 5 device:

Navigate to the image you’d like to use from the Photos application & tap Edit in the upper right, then the square crop icon on the bottom right.

Tap Constrain, then tap Square. This will bring up an Instagram-ready constraint box with the nine rule of thirds boxes!

From here, follow what you’ve learned from above. Try to create balance by lining up horizons (or rooftops, in this case) on one of the lines, or place your subject at one of the intersections of the lines. You can see in the first screenshot that the photo appears to be chopped in half when the houses are placed dead center, but placing the top of that first house resting on the line in the second screenshot creates a sense of balance. It’s really that simple!

This is the final image after it’s been pulled into Instagram, given a filter, and tilt shift applied. Once you’re able to picture those lines in your head you won’t need to rely on the cropping method and you can take your photos right in Instagram using the rule of thirds (and our fancy live filters)!

Remember: Rules are sometimes made to be broken. While this can be a helpful guideline for beginners who want to improve their composition, sometimes placing the subject, like a portrait of a friend, in the center of the image can still be aesthetically pleasing, and it can even crate a sense of loneliness. You can also break this rule if your subject has symmetry, like with architectural structures.

Photo by @jayzombie.