Rule-Of-Thirds Rules For Farmhouse Portrait

Sometimes the best portraits start unplanned – in this case, during a shoot break. I saw a patch of light, adjusted the scene to improve the composition and used the Rule of Thirds for a visually pleasing result.

My client for this shoot commissioned me to create some portraits of their two grownup children, at their beautiful farmhouse home on the top of a hill in the Chilterns. As you’d expect, we spent loads of time outside, making the most of the beautiful scenery as backgrounds for the images.

We came inside for a cup of tea and I spotted a pool of light in the far side of the lounge. There was a room beyond the lounge with a wooden door leading into it, a wooden door in the background and a window to the right. All these elements combined into a sketch of a possible portrait in my head…

Adjusting the composition

I asked one of the subjects, Rosie, to stand in the light so I could see what the shot might look like. I didn’t like the composition at first, so I closed the inner door slightly, so it created a frame-within-a-frame on the left side of the shot.

At this point I knew there was potential for a great portrait, so I fine-tuned Rosie’s pose further. I asked her to lean against the window frame and put her finger-tips in her jeans pockets. This creates a nice shape, with a bend to the elbows, rather than having Rosie’s arms dangling at her sides.

When framing the shot, I’ve positioned Rosie so her body falls on one of the key parts of the frame according to the Rule of Thirds. Her face is just resting on the top of one of the intersections of the lines in the same compositional rule, and again this creates a visually pleasing result.

I’ve cropped the image just above knee height. Wherever possible, avoid slicing through people’s joints by cropping them with the edges of your image frame – it just looks odd. Instead, crop just above or below the joint.

Exposing for the face

I adjusted my camera settings so that Rosie’s face is correctly exposed. As she is standing right by the light source (the window), exposing for her face meant underexposing the rest of the scene. This makes the room behind Rosie darker, which helps draw your eye to her face (the lightest part of the image) and transforms the background into abstract textures.

Lastly, I chose a monochrome treatment in post-production as I felt it suited the mood of the image.

Camera Settings

  • Focal length: 102.0mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shutter speed: 1/250 sec
  • ISO: 2200