Lightroom Tip - Beyond the Rule of Thirds

I have no illusions of grandeur, when it comes to my Lightroom skills and knowledge, but I thought I would share with you something that I find very useful, easy to use, and a tool that I use on every image I produce. I use a Mac, so any shortcuts I describe will be for Mac.

The Crop Tool, and more specifically the Crop Overlays that you can use with the Crop Tool. To use the Crop Tool you will need to be in the Develop module. To set up how the crop tool displays Overlays go to the Tools Menu and select Tool Overlay. This will give you options on when the overlays are shown. Your options here are “Auto Show”, “Always Show” or “Never Show”, I leave mine set to always show. This way when I am in the Cop Tool, the overlay is always there to help me create an effective and pleasing crop. I have Lightroom set up so that the Rule of Thirds grid overlay is displayed by default, but you have other options. Seven of them to be exact.

The options are: Grid, Thirds, Diagonal, Triangle, Golden Ratio, Golden Spiral, and finally Aspect Ratios. When you are in the crop tool you can easily scroll through the options by pressing the letter O. Also, by pressing “Shift O”, you can change the orientation of the overlay.

When I am in the process of editing my images, I am always looking to increase the compositional appeal of the image. This usually involves cropping the image to improve upon the overall composition. One of the Crop Overlays that I use frequently is the Rule of Thirds. The key to using this is to try placing important elements of the image on intersecting lines.

When there is a strong diagonal aspect to an image I like to toggle to the Triangle Overlay. This guide is a diagonal line plotted between two corners, then two other lines meet it at right angles from the other corners. You can use the triangles to separate areas in the frame, or position points of interest where the lines meet. Don’t forget that you can hit Shift+O to change the orientation of the diagonals.

Another of the overlays I use frequently is the Golden Spiral Overlay. This spiral overlay is based on the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence. The use of this overlay is about placing important point in your image at the centre of the spiral (the animal’s eye), and spacing other points of interest using the curved lines as a guide.

The last Overlay that finds its way into my workflow on a regular basis is the Aspect Ratio Overlay. If you need to crop your image in different ways, for different purposes, the Aspect Ratio Overlay allows you to see several different ratios at once. You can customise which ratios are shown under Tools>Crop Guide Overlay>Choose Aspect Ratios.

While the crop overlay tool is not necessarily something that will speed up your workflow, or correct for bad exposure, it is a useful tool to visualize compositional rules. I find that by playing around in post production with the different overlays has allowed me to visualize them when I am in the field, and has expanded my understanding of some of the Rules of Composition.

I hope I showed you something new that you can use in your workflow.