Friday, January 14, 2011

The rule of thirds and '08 Stadium Club

All right, I was a little hasty in my previous post, speculating that Fleer was a little smarter than we thought they were in 1982. If the card makers were thinking of the "rule of thirds" when they composed the cards, they didn't do a good job of it.

Chances are they weren't thinking any such thing, as the comments in the last post suggested.

I had my suspicions anyway based on a few things that were also mentioned in the comments. First, I agree that the image on the Sutcliffe '82 Fleer card should be on the right, not the left. Also, while posting the cards, I kept thinking that the rule of thirds would have worked better if the cards were horizontal and not vertical.

But the big thing is the background. I didn't really think of that. In order for the rule of thirds to be effective, you need something in the rest of the photo that is interesting. Fleer fell flat on its face in that area.

So, I decided to go to my favorite photographic set of very recent times to see the rule of thirds in true action. It's 2008 Stadium Club, the ultimate uncompletable set.

The rule of thirds was difficult to find on vertical cards, even in Stadium Club. If it was there, it was super subtle. But for the horizontal cards, it is all over the place.

Here is the Granderson card divided up into nine squares (actually rectangles, again. Sorry). You see the lines on the left intersect at Granderson. It implies movement more than if Granderson was centered. Also, although there isn't a lot in the background, your eye is drawn to the first baseman covering the play and leads you to speculate who that might be (Morneau?).

Here the lines on the left intersect at Santana. But the rule of thirds also leads your eye to the action at first base and whoever that Reds player might be.

I decided to do this one with red lines, for Mr. MVP. There is quite a bit going on in the background, so placing Votto in the right third of the photo was a good move. Terrific photo.

The lines intersect here right at the subject of the card just as a good little "rule of thirds" photo should. But Braun is also positioned so you can take in the crowd, as well as the catcher at left.

Notice that the Ninety Nine restaurant sign is obscured by the catcher.

But not here. This is the famed photo in which the umpire was removed from the picture and the back fence was painted blue to give the impression that this game took place in Dodger Stadium, although it was actually Fenway Park.

The lines intersect near home plate, but given all the foolishness by Topps on this card, I wouldn't be surprised if the central image was supposed to be the Ninety Nine sign. Notice how the lines intersect there, too.

Here is perhaps the best example of rule of thirds on a card. I've already mentioned how terrific this photo is. But now I know why. Sheffield is positioned right along the intersection of two lines, and your eyes are drawn to the terrific backdrop of Comerica Park.

So, that is how the "rule of thirds" is done correctly.

Sorry, '82 Fleer. You're back to being the ugly duckling.


  1. Wow those are some nice looking cards!

  2. TSC always gets the job done right in the photo dept. Very cool post!!!

  3. Now these cards really work the photography well. I actually had some other cards in mind when I was writing my comments on the '82 Fleer set. But all of them were horizontal, and you can really see the effects in this set. I've never really looked at this set before but I think I'm going to have to look into collecting it. Perhaps I might start a whole "great photography" collection and include some of these cards. Thanks for a great follow-up!

  4. That's more like it! The funny thing about the photography on TSC cards is that Topps had (and still has) access to great photos like that for every player for every year for every product. It cost no more to license that Sheffield gem than it did to license the worst looking card in the set. Why all sets don't look like this is beyond me. I suppose they're going for a "this is the great photography set" branding. Which makes all the others... what, then? -Andy

  5. Beautifully analyzed (and two Tiger cards to boot!). That Gary Sheffield card may be the best card photo of the last decade, and is probably one of the best of ALL TIME.

  6. I think that Votto card is awesome. And the Sheffield picture seems to be a tip of the hat to the iconic picture of Babe Ruth having his number retired. That picture, BTW, was called "Babe Ruth Bows Out" and won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize.

  7. Wonder how some of the UD sets measure up to Stadium Club.

  8. What a great set - I just got all of those cards except for Braun in my trade with Smed.

  9. Great post. Great photos.

    I've noticed a lot of really good photos in the new 2011 Topps. I think Im going to enjoy this year!