Photography Tips » How to Use the Rule of Odds in Photography

How to Use the Rule of Odds in Photography

Learning and mastering composition techniques is crucial to improving the quality of your photos. But if you’re unfamiliar with many of the most tried-and-true techniques, you might not know where to start. Fortunately, the rule of odds is one of the simplest techniques to incorporate into your photography.

No matter what type of photography you enjoy, or your choice of subjects, you can use the rule of odds to craft a unique image. But to understand this technique, let’s first consider the rules of odds photography definition.

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What Is Rule of Odds in Photography?

The rule of even and odd photography states that images that contain an odd number of elements tend to attract more attention than those with an even number of subjects. So having 3 or 5 elements in your composition is better than 2, 4, or 6 elements. However, if you go to a larger number of elements, like 7, then the elements are likely perceived as a group or as many, instead of individual elements. So with a large number of elements, the rule is no longer effective.

5 fallow deers
5 Fallow Deers. Using the photography rule of odds in wildlife photography

If you’re hoping to make your photographs more interesting and engaging, you can use this compositional technique to your advantage. And no matter what you happen to be photographing, you can use the rule of odds.

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Using the Rule of Odds To Improve Photography Composition

Whether you’re just starting to learn about photography or you’re a seasoned professional, it’s crucial to master the rule of odds when producing captivating images. Still, some types of photos may lack subjects entirely. For example, in landscape photography, you may struggle to implement the rule of odd photography techniques.

After all, a landscape that’s bereft of animals or humans may seem to lack a primary focus or subject. And so long as you have subjects, you can use the rule of odds. Now, let’s give you three rule of odds photography examples:

1. People or animals

A common subject, where you can easily apply the rule of odds is with people and animals. Including three subjects in the frame, instead of only two is often just a matter of arranging the scene or waiting for the right moment.

three horses - using the rule of odds in photography
Three grey Andalusian stallions – portrait in motion

2. Places

Think about how many buildings or signs you include in your street photography.

3. Things

This could be still life photography or food photography, where you take advantage of the rule of odds for a more pleasing composition.

three figs on a plate
Three figs on brown wooden plate vertical

Remember if you have, i.e., three dominating but different things in your image, it also counts as including an odd number of subjects

How Does the Rule of Odds Work?

Now you know that the rule of odds is the practice of having one, three, or five subjects in your image. But how exactly does that technique make photographs more interesting?

The answer has everything to do with focus and attention. Most people have a preference for symmetrical images and objects. Though we often think of symmetry as being repeated, aka a pair, symmetry is often more complex.

A symmetrical mandala is an excellent example. You can take a perfectly symmetrical picture that contains three distinct subjects. Or, often better, you can take a nearly symmetrical picture with three subjects. Both are bound to capture some attention.

That’s because people enjoy observing symmetrical patterns. And slightly asymmetrical images can be the most fascinating for viewers, as it pulls the eye toward the ‘flaw’ of asymmetry. 

As such, you can have asymmetrical and symmetrical pictures that reflect the rule of odds and keep people interested. Still, the rule of odds is not the only composition technique you’ll want to consider.

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Photography Composition Tips and Techniques that Enhance the Rule of Odds

If you’re struggling to get the ideal shots, you may want to consider a few additional techniques. Perhaps two of the essential techniques to practice include:

  • Triangular Composition
  • Leading Line and lines

Let’s review these techniques to help you better understand what they entail and how they might help.

Triangular Composition

Triangular composition means incorporating hard angles and lines into your images. You can also interpret this technique more literally and begin adding triangular frames, backgrounds, or subjects to your photographs.

Leading Lines

When you look at your photographs, what’s the first thing that captures your attention? If your eyes tend to jump across the image to multiple subjects, you may want to consider placing leading lines.

These are background elements, items, or people that form parallel lines in your image. The purpose of these lines is to draw attention to a particular point or subject.

Concluding words

The rule of odds is a photography technique that could help make your photographs more interesting to viewers. To use this technique, you’ll need to capture an odd number of subjects in your photographs.

Of course, it’s also crucial to employ other composition techniques, such as the rule of thirds, triangular composition, and leading lines. And you’ll definitely want to consider additional tips, like experimenting with light.

If you’re ready to embrace some new techniques and upgrade your skill, be sure to check out our helpful tips and tricks now!

Do you use the photography composition rule of odds for your own photos? Share how you go about it in the comments below.

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