On the surface the rule of thirds doesn’t really make a ton of sense, I mean why would a composition broken up into three equal parts be innately more appealing than any other random spattering in a composition? Well what if I told you that nature actually does instinctively, and inexplicably seem to have a naturally occurring preference towards a specific ratio, a peculiar number, a divine ratio if you will?
To find the real story behind the “rule of thirds” we need to go back in time, not to the renaissance, not to the Greeks, and not even to Adam nor Eve… even further. We need to go to the creation of the universe, why is that? Well I’ll tell you why. There is a number that determines how a sunflower’s seeds grow, it determines the path a hawk takes when diving at it’s prey, it is echoed in the breeding habits of rabbits and it even determines how the spirals in a spiral galaxy are laid out. It’s all very simple in it’s beauty and best of all, it’s all true. If you want to wrap your head around it further then I highly recommend the book The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio (Check it out here The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number).
Interestingly enough this mathematical principle has been seen in artwork as early as 400 B.C., today we refer to this line by several names: the Golden Ratio, the Golden Mean, The Divine Proportion, but whatever you call it you should notice that it does not line up with the rule of thirds. Almost but not quite…
In other words, if you want to construct a composition where the main points fall on lines used by nature in absolutely mind-blowingly different ways then follow the Golden Mean. However, if you want to fold up the paper into thirds and have your composition line up with that then by all means, follow the rule of thirds.