Beyond the rules of composition

Many subjects look fine placed dead centre but an off-centre placement frequently produces more impact and interesting results. If you want to boost your photography hobby a little from snap-n-shoot dead centre focus and you want to make your photos more interesting, proceed with reading the following.

To note that this is only a summary and there are lot of material on the web for you. Just Google something similar to: “rules of third”, “Composition rules”, “Fibonacci Number”, “Golden Spiral”, etc.

Rule of Thirds

Following the rule of thirds is the simplest way and the most effective composition placement that you can think off. Imagine your viewfinder is dissected with two horizontal lines intersecting by equally distant two vertical lines. Now if you are shouting a specific subject like a face or a flower, place your subject at one of the 4 intersections. In other term, your subject should be placed at one-third of the edge of the frame. Most recent cameras nowadays have their LCDs with 3x3 grid settings overlay.

Rule of thirds. Place your subject of interest at one of the 4 intersection of the grid.

Rule of thirds. Place your subject of interest at one of the 4 intersection of the grid.

If you are composing an image of a landscape with no specific subject or maybe a horizon with sky and sea, imagine that the image is divided into three equal horizontal sections and arrange your elements accordingly. This means placing the sky in the top third, the sea in the middle and the sand in the lower third. If however, a boat is passing by then place the boat on one of vertical ‘one-thirds’ when possible i.e. when vertical meets horizontal lines. As a result, your viewers will find the image in sync with the composition elements and more pleasant.

The Fibonacci number and Golden Spiral

In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers or sequence are the numbers in the following integer sequence:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144,…

By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. F (n) = F {n-1} + F {n-2} … But we are not her to go back to maths are we. How does this relate to photography? Well the golden spiral (also referred to as the Devine Ratio) defines a spiral pattern that shows repeatedly in nature from a sea shell to a sunflower, to the spiral form of the galaxy; making it no coincidence. Since there’s obviously something special in nature about this form, it makes sense that humans would be naturally attracted to it.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a master in showing off the golden spiral rule. See sample image of his work below and read my blog post “Who was Henri Cartier-Bresson?


The Fibonacci Sequence

Fibonacci Golden Spiral. Also referred to as the Devine Mean seen in nature under many forms.

Leading Lines

By placing a wall receding into the distance or when you lead the viewers’ attention by following natural lines or architectural patterns in the photo leading to your subject, you are helping them to draw their eye into a more distant feature that you want to highlight. Like when aiming through the barrel of a gun: your eye is looking through the front sight to the muzzle of the gun, and all the way to the target. The same apply to your composition. What do I mean by that? Well; try to place something interesting to fill the bottom of the frame and link it to the subject (exactly like when aiming through a gun: sight – muzzle - target).

Other rules in photography are related to symmetry and pattern, diagonals, background and simplicity, etc. If however you practice on both the rule of thirds and the leading line you will definitely produce amazing WOW picture that you can showoff your friends and family. When done practicing the rules always remember to brake them. Experiment different perspectives and angles.

Keep on shooting! - Gaby Awad