Rule of Odds: A Guide to Creating Stunning Compositions in Photography

Last updated on July 29th, 2023 at 10:54 am

You are truly missing out on capturing excellent shots if you are clueless about the popular Rule of Odds. It is an incredible composition technique that abides by the name of the rule itself, i.e. relying on an odd number of elements. Need help understanding what we mean? Keep reading to find out more.

The Rule of Odds: Definition

Scientific research has made it possible for humans to delve inside their brains and understand what appeals to their psyche. It is obvious that everyone will use the understanding of human psychology to their advantage, including photographers who realize that humans are subconsciously attracted to an odd number of elements placed together instead of even.

As a result, their image composition includes a group of odd elements placed together, which manipulates the viewers into viewing each odd object individually instead of together.

Why do we use the Rule of Odds?Why do we use the Rule of Odds

While the Rule of Odds is the result of human psychology, it is a direct contradiction of another subconscious habit of ours, i.e. organizing elements in even numbers by default. It is our habit to divide a collection of objects into smaller sets immediately after setting eyes on them. However, we barely find ourselves making sets of five or seven spoons: it’s always a set of six or eight spoons.

This is exactly why the Rule of Odds works to our advantage. The contradiction between our default organization skill and sense of appeal creates a harmonizing contrast that attracts our eyes and helps us focus on each element individually.

Short guide on how to use the Rule of Odds

Be it nature photography or food photography; you can use the Rule of Odds for any composition as long as you understand the concepts that make it work.

How many subjects are needed?

  • The first thing you need to understand is that the Rule of Odds only works when you abide by a set number of odd elements. You need to add more than eleven elements to your composition, hoping for it to garner the same attention as an image composition with three to five elements. Always remember: the less is more.
  • The entire point of the Rule of Odds is to attract the brain, and by constantly adding elements to crowd the image, you are just confusing yourself even more.

Using The Rule of Odds For Different Types Of Photography

Basic Photography

Now that you know what the Rule of Odds is, it is time to practice it. You don’t need to go above and beyond to find a scenic view that matches your aesthetic or anything: a plain, solid background will suffice.

Now start adding elements to it. Remember: an odd number of elements is the key. If you want to snap the strawberries your mother bought the other day, take three or five of them and arrange them in any symmetrical order, for example, a triangle or parallel to each other.Rule of Odds In Basic Photography

Food Photography

The reason why we used the example of strawberries is that the Rule of Odds works best with food photography. It is easy to make the image composition look aesthetic because even three or five plates of creatively presented plates arranged together appear incredibly well-composed.

A key tip is to arrange the plates or any other food item in an outline of a shape. Whether a triangle or a circle, careful consideration of the way they are presented, along with the number of elements, does wonders on the overall image composition.Rule of Odds In Food Photography

Street Photography

Street photography uses the rule of odds in an interesting manner. Remember when we said you need an odd number of elements in the picture composition? That doesn’t necessarily have to be people walking down the street. In order to bring focus to a particular monument, you can wait for two people to walk by near it to capture the best shot. Your brain automatically groups the two people as a group, and the focus is brought on the sole-standing monument.

This was just an example to tell you that never let a scenic shot go. If the opportunity for the perfect time to apply the Rule of Odds isn’t coming, create the opportunity yourself. An interesting doorway, a food stall, or even a popcorn stand is an excellent element to make your image composition interesting.Rule of Odds In Street Photography

Nature Photography

Nature photography is another great way of experimenting with the Rule of Odds. This is why most roses you see online have three or five petals. It is because most photographers deliberately take away the even petal to make the subject appear more appealing to the human eye.

The Rule of Odds looks outstandingly well when you are photographing animals. The next time you see a pool of four kittens huddled together, shoo one away, and snap the rest to get that perfect shot. It is obviously easy with harmless animals involved, but you would need to be careful while shooting the bigger creatures.Rule of Odds In Nature Photography

Limitations of the Rule of Odds

Street photography teaches us that the Rule of Odds is there to make your life easier, not harder. You don’t have to ruin an entire moment just because there was no odd number of elements available to photograph. That is because photography is all about playing with perspectives, and it is possible for you to change the perspective and make your image appear the way you want it to.

If you have an even number of elements, you can pair them up creatively to give the delusion of being odd. Here is how: if you are taking pictures of seashells on a beach, and you wish for all four of the unique seashells to be part of your image composition. In this case, take one seashell, and place it over the other. In this way, you manipulate the brain into thinking that those two seashells on top of each other are a group, and they are one element instead of two. As a result, your image composition will appear to have three seashells instead of four (don’t take it too literally… the fourth shell won’t just magically disappear).

However, if the Rule of Odds doesn’t work for you, maybe because there’s no way to pair the even number away, adding the added element ruins the image composition, or it’s getting too late for the odd element to arrive, capture the photo the way it is. Don’t restrict yourself to a rule because it is more than a trick than a binding law.


The Rule of Odds improves your image composition by using odd elements instead of even ones because our default nature is to pair even elements into groups of two. The smaller the number of odd elements, the better your image looks. Get yourself three elements, and you can enjoy almost any type of photography with images that look stunning to the human eye.