Photography Composition {The Rule of Odds}

July 9, 2012

in Dana Suggs, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

I Heart Faces Photo Composition Tutorial

This is the first in a series of Photography Composition Tutorials by Dana Suggs, I Heart Faces Creative Team member.  Follow along with the rest of this Photography Composition Series here:

Rule of Odds – Why does this rule seem to fit my household so well? But no, it’s not a “rule” that seems to congregate in my house amongst my lovely children, it’s a Rule of Composition. And the rules of composition help us create drama and interest in our art!

“Odd numbers are better than even in photography.”

The Rule of Odds states that images are more visually appealing when there is an odd number of subjects.

Think of it like this: you are framing ONE subject between 2 other subjects. And framing creates interest in the photo. In the photo above, my daughter is naturally framed between her two older brothers. Our eye naturally goes to the center.

When there are only 2 subjects, there is no center for our eye to focus on. Let me show you another example from the same session:
I Heart Faces Photo Composition Tutorial
Two similar photos, both equally lovely, however, the first photo has 3 subjects while the second one only has 2. Now, supposedly, our brains can make better sense of the 2 subjects, so our eye does not linger on it, thus making it boring and more predictable. With an odd number, our brain needs to find the center, so our eyes linger longer on it. (But trust me when I say, I am no expert on the subject of brains.)   😉

Experts have actually done studies on this (how boring would that have been? LOL I hope the sponsors paid them well), and the studies showed that people were drawn more often to the photos with an odd number. It was more pleasing to their eye. Here is the thinking behind it: When you have an odd number of anything, there is always a CENTER to focus on….it is balanced. I’m not sure how this helps our engagement sessions…or those families with an EVEN number of people in them….I suppose we’ll just have to find another way to add drama and interest in our composition. Good thing there are lots of rules of composition, huh?

Here’s another example:

Even Number Composition

I Heart Faces Photo Composition Tutorial

Rule of Odds Composition

Having 3 subjects, also creates a triangle that attracts the eye to the focal point. Like I said earlier, it creates natural framing for the object in the middle.

This, of course, is NOT a hard and fast rule because we do shoot formal wedding portraits focusing on the couple and we do photograph families with only 2 children (there are other rules of composition to help us with those). But, when it is possible to control our subjects (nature photography comes to mind), following the Rule of Odds will add drama and interest to our photos.

Be kind to others, and NEVER stop learning!


Be sure to stop by for the next few Mondays to continue this Photography Composition Series with Dana!


Dana Suggs, I Heart Faces Creative Team Dana Suggs is an on-location photographer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, specializing in Children and Seniors photography. She loves to have fun and finds joy in everyday life. She’s been married for 20 years and is the mother of 3 natural-born children and proud foster-parent to 3 more. You can find her on her Photography website, Facebook Fanpage and, of course, she is a PROUD member of our Creative Team for I Heart Faces.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

IRela September 7, 2012

Thank you Dana (and I Heart Faces) for this wonderful post.


irene aswani July 10, 2012

a nyc rule t is


{Grace} July 9, 2012

This is an awesome article! Will keep this in mind! :)


Declan Mc Glone July 9, 2012

Photography Composition {The Rule of Odds} #photography


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