Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rule of Thirds with the Canon Rebel T2i

Recently I've noticed a trend where photographers have been talking about getting it right in the camera to minimize the amount of post processing that is done. One way of getting it right in camera is, if you follow it, is to use the rule of thirds when composing your shot. If you're not familiar with the rule of thirds here's a very brief overview of it.

For any picture if you were to place a tic-tack-toe grid over it where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect are the best spots to position the main subject of the picture. There's more to it than that but that should give you a basic understanding which is all that's needed.

This morning I was experimenting with the Rebel T2i and wanted to see if any of its 9 individual focus points aligned the a rule of thirds grid. I mounted the camera on my tripod and then one-by-one shot the same picture using each of the 9 focus points. Afterwards I loaded the images into Photoshop and added a rule of thirds grid over them.

Simulated Rebel T2i Focusing Screen
I have some mad Photoshop skills don't I? I created that simulated focusing screen from scratch! In each of the photos below, numbered 01 through 09 the number below the photo corresponds with the focusing point shown above. For all shots I focused on the hole in the front door of the birdhouse. Also you can click on each image to view a larger version which makes it easier to see the grid.
This 1st picture was taken using the center point. As you can see everything is nicely centered between the two vertical lines of the grid. The center point is probably the most used focusing point when folks don't use all 9. I know I used it a ton when shooting sports and still use it quite a but when trying to shoot birds in flight. The center focusing point is also the only cross-type sensor on the camera which means it works better than the remaining 8 due to its extra sensitivity.
This 2nd picture was taken after moving the focus point to #2. As you can see it does a pretty good job of aligning with the intersection used by the rule of thirds. I plan to use this focusing point from now own whenever I want to compose a picture where the main subject is in the upper right hand corner.
This 3rd picture was taken after moving the focus point to #3. As you can see it's outside of the grid lines so I really can't think of a time when I would use it off the top of my head.
This 4th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #4. Just like with #2 is does a darn good job of lining up with the rule of thirds grid. So far points #2 and #4 are on the "to use" list.
This 5th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #5. While doesn't line up with one of the vertical lines it does remain on the lower horizontal line so it's one I would use in a pinch. #2 and #4 remain my preferred choices for subjects on the right side of the frame.
This 6th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #6. Like #2 and #4 before it I'll use this one for subjects appearing in the lower left hand portion of the frame. We're up to three preferred focusing points #2, #4, #6.
This 7th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #7. It has the same issues as #3 only on the opposite side of the frame.
This 8th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #8. Like #2, #4, and #6 it does a very good job aligning with the horizontal and vertical intersection of the grid. It's one I'll use for sure.
This 9th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #9. Like #5 it falls along the horizontal line so it's one that I'd use if for some reason I didn't use #2 or #8.

Am I trying to say that I'll only use 5 of the 9 focusing points on the Rebel T2i from now on? Nope, not at all. What I'm suggesting is when you want to follow the rule of thirds (and we all know rules were meant to be broken) I'll use focusing points #2, #4, #6 and #8 as the composition I'm going for warrants. I would encourage you to repeat this same sort of test with subjects you like to shoot. 

Oh and for the curious all shots were taken with Donna' Rebel T2i and EF-S 55-250 lens set at 55mm. Lens and camera were mounted on the Induro CT314 Tripod. Aperture was set to f/8 and shutter speed varied, ISO 100.


  1. Zack, this was such a good experiment, well done for even thinking of it! Your results are amazing, and I for one will be ever grateful to you for giving folks reference points for their future compositions. Thank you so much, this will help me a great deal in the future. I'm so happy to have read your post!

  2. Very interesting. I just read your entry and gave it a test. Almost perfect and just what I was looking for.

    Thank you.

  3. Very cool. Thanks for posting this. I am surprised the camera doesn't have a grid view built in. .

  4. The T2i doesn't have a built in grid but other Canon cameras so. When I had the 40D I swapped out screens so I could have a grid.

  5. Hello thank you I am new to photography and was having trouble with rule of thirds for my assignment a friend recommended this site for me sadly though after a lot of Google searches myself I did not come up with this site in my search results :( .... Anyway I did a few test of this using my Nikon D3100 and the 3D thingo it tells the dots where to focus and bingo rule of thirds thank you so very much for giving back my sanity.......

  6. This is very helpful; thanks for posting

  7. Good for 2 picture 2 camera. That's black friday Canon EOS Rebel T2i great. I like. thanks so much.

  8. This was great. Thank you so much, it really helped me!