I read an interesting article online entitled “The Lazy Rule of Thirds” by fashion photographer Jake Garn. He argues that the “rule of thirds” we’ve all been taught in photography is really just a shortcut to take photographs that follow the Golden Ratio.
Stick with me.
Over 2,500 years ago mathematicians figured out that if you drew a rectangle or a curve where the ratio of the height to the width was approximately 1.6, it just looked better. Without going into all the math, it turns out that nature uses this same ratio too: everything from flower petals to the branching of veins inside your body follows this pattern. Artists started using the Golden Ratio, and evidence of it is found in the Greek Parthanon, works by Leonardo Da Vinci, and even paintings by Salvador Dali.
Notice in the image above, if you draw a successive series of curves based on the Golden Ratio, the bigger rectangle on the left is approximately two-thirds of the total area. The logic is that instead of trying to teach us knuckleheads the Golden Ratio in Beginning Photography 101 class, the teachers simplified it into the Rule of Thirds.
Think this doesn’t work? After I read Jake’s article, I found a transparent .PNG file of the curve online (you don’t even want to know why it is called the Fibonacci spiral), copied it to my desktop, and opened it in Photoshop. Then I found a really nice image done by the folks over at Classic Concepts Studio in Durand, and dragged the curve on top of the image as a new layer. I resized the spiral by dragging the corner with the shift key held down so it wouldn’t lose proportion, rotated it, mirrored it, and colored it with a red stroke.
This is the result.
I always knew I really liked this image, but I never knew why. Now I’m going back over other images and dropping the spiral on top. I can’t say every good image matches perfectly, but I can say that the bad ones don’t even come close.
If I were making an image for a competition, I’d have this spiral file saved on my hard drive and use it to help me with composition and cropping. It might just be the secret ingredient I needed to create the perfect award-winning image.
Do you have any images to share that match up with the Golden Ratio? Send them to me as a 250x200px 72dpi JPG and I’ll post them here.