52.2 month 11 : classic rules of composition

Rule of Thirds, Center Composition, Golden Triangle, Golden Spiral

Our August topic is Classic Rules of Composition. The Rule of Thirds is a traditional guideline for composing an image which divides the canvas into nine equal parts. In composing your image, placing a point of interest on an intersection point which measures one third from the side edge of the canvas or from the top or bottom edges, results in a more visually interesting image than with an alternate placement.

Centering the subject has often been seen as a beginner technique, because the resulting composition is not viewed as being as dynamic compared to other compositions (for example, last weeks’ Rule of Thirds). However, if you are deliberate with your composition, having a balanced frame with the subject at the center can be a very effective compositional technique.

A center composition can emphasize symmetry or create a sense of space. If there are distracting elements around the subject, centering may be the best way to avoid including these extraneous elements in the frame. When there are very few other items in the frame, centering can draw attention to the subject, especially when leading lines are used. Centering is particularly effective in a square crop. When used purposefully, centering can produce a very visually striking image.

We continue our month-long study of classic compositional techniques by exploring the proportions of the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle rule generally applies to photos with diagonal lines. It involves splitting your photo into three sections that contain the same angles. First, divide the frame into two equal triangles with a diagonal line and then divide any one of the triangles into two by drawing a line from the corner of the frame towards the central line, making an angle of 90 degrees. Now you have a total of three triangles; one large and two smaller ones. When you place your diagonal elements in the frame it makes for a dynamic composition.

For our fourth week of classic compositional techniques, we are focusing on the golden spiral, which is a compositional tool based on Fibonacci’s Ratio and the golden rectangle.

To create a golden spiral, start by dividing a rectangle in to two parts, a square and a smaller rectangle. Continue to divide the resulting rectangles the same way. A spiral is drawn from the series of squares and provides a way to guide the viewer’s eye to the area of focus in a photo. This spiral is often referred to as the “divine proportion” because of the numerous places it appears in nature — the spiral of a Nautilus shell, or the patterns of a flower or pinecone. Like its many uses in art and architecture, using the golden spiral in photography can add depth and a sense of balance.

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