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Golden Ratio Photography - Passport to Impressive Photos

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If you are a photographer, then you would have a keen eye for details. Well, photography is all about details. From the right click, perfect frame to attention-seeking colors, right balance and plenty of other details that make a photo picture perfect! So now that we have shared the details for a photo, what is the one thing that makes your photograph look different from others? Well, think! Yes, you are right! It is the right balance. While composing photos, the one thing a photographer looks for is the perfect balance of the subject and the surroundings. Till date, if you have been using the bombastic rule of thirds and bringing a new dimension to your photographs, then it is time to move ahead! Yes, shutterbugs, now bring all your focus on the famous Greek concept, golden ratio - the key to magical photos. Golden ratio photography will take your photographs to a whole new level and we bet that you would be amazed by its brilliant composition. 

For ages, Golden ratio has been in design, human art and probably that’s the secret behind the most beautiful portraits in the world. Are you feeling enthusiastic about golden ratio? Then let’s just get down and find all about golden ratio and how you can use it in your photos.

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail”-
Charles R Swindoll

What is the Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is a proportion obtained from a mathematical rule which states that any line segment can be divided into two parts in such a way that the longer part divided by shorter part is in the same proportion as the line segment divided by the longer part. Upon solving the equation derived from this rule, we get the magical number of 1.618.

The golden ratio is closely related to the Fibonacci Sequence discovered by Leonardo DaVinci, and when combined together they form the Fibonacci Spiral.

What is the Fibonacci Spiral

The Fibonacci sequence is an infinite series of numbers which is created by the addition of whole numbers. It looks like this:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…

The next number of the sequence is derived by adding the previous two whole numbers, and this pattern can go on indefinitely.


Golden ratio photography
Fibonacci Spiral

If a rectangle is divided using the golden ratio, it forms a square with the side equal to a Fibonacci number, and if this pattern is repeated, the Fibonacci Spiral is formed.

Know About Golden Ratio Photography

The golden ratio has many names, the magic number is one of them. This is perfectly suited for it because it makes any composition visually appealing.

On observing famous works of art and architecture like the Last Supper and the Parthenon, it can be seen that the golden ratio has been used while creating them. In fact, the ratio appears in the Milky Way and in the petals of the sunflower too! So, it is clear that any artist – even Mother Nature- can use this ratio to make his work more attractive, and that includes photographers.

Golden ratio photography i.e. using the golden ratio in photography is an easy way to achieve a simple yet strong image composition. Golden ratio photography makes viewers intrigued by the image from the moment they set their eyes on it.

Splitting the frame using the golden ratio is how one can implement golden ratio photography. The Phi Grid is one way of doing this.

What is the Phi Grid

The 21st alphabet of the Greek language, Phi is the mathematical representation of the golden ratio. So naturally, the Phi Grid is a grid formed from the golden ratio.

Golden ratio photography
Phi Grid

The Rule of Thirds divides the frame into 9 equal parts using three horizontal and three vertical line segments, with each segment being divided in the ratio of 1:1:1. The Phi Grid is simply a variation of this. The Phi Grid also divides a frame into 9 parts but the ratio here is 1:1.618:1. This is how it compares to the Rule of Thirds.

How to Use it for Photography Composition

The Phi Grid tells a photographer how to split the frame in a manner that is more pleasing to the eye.

An ordinary individual clicking a picture with his phone’s camera, or even an amateur photographer would mostly keep the subject of the image in the center of the frame, keeping in mind the intersection of line segments. This would be following the Rule of Thirds.

On the other hand, by the rules of golden ratio photography, the photographer should align the frame similarly yet differently: similarly because here also the subject needs to be focused at the intersection of the line segments. The difference simply lies in the division of the grid and the lengths of the line segments. The reason behind this is that the intersections of the line segments of the Phi Grid are where the focus of the human eye naturally falls upon. Thus, golden ratio photography catches the attention of the viewer immediately.

The Golden Ratio in Photography and the Fibonacci Spiral

There are no written rules for golden ratio photography: using either the Phi Grid or the Fibonacci Spiral is considered to be suitable. What should be used depends on what is befitting what must be captured. Generally, the Fibonacci Spiral is used for portraits and the Phi Grid for landscapes. However, in most images, both may seem to be applicable.

Golden ratio photography
Golden Ratio Photography

The photograph above makes the purpose that golden ratio photography serves clearer. The yellow Phi Grid lines and the red lines Fibonacci Spiral help the photographer to divide the frame in such a way that the immediate attention of the viewer goes to the motorcycle and not the buildings. The street, the car, the buildings and the sky appropriately complement the motorcycle but do not draw too much attention. This is only because the frame has been split in a way that makes the human eye focus on the motorcycle.

How to Use the Fibonacci Spiral

While adjusting the image and frame according to the Phi Grid may be less troublesome, the Spiral is also not that difficult to use as a tool. What many budding photographers fail to realize is that the direction of the Spiral does not matter. It can be turned as per the convenience of the photographer.

Golden ratio photography
How to Use the Fibonacci Spiral

If you observe the impeccable Mona Lisa painting, you would notice that the Fibonacci Spiral has been incorporated in it, with the nose of the lady in the portrait being fit in the smallest part of the spiral. This has been done as the nose is the center of the face which makes it the ideal spot to look at. Interestingly, the face of the Mona Lisa fits perfectly into a golden rectangle: a rectangle where the lengths are in the golden ratio.

Golden Ratio vs Rule of Thirds

While applying the Rule of Thirds may also result in “good photographs”, the golden ratio creates an image that is more balanced and hence is more pleasing. Of course, the Rule of Thirds is an easier way out.

Golden Ratio Photography
 Golden Ratio vs Rule of Thirds

But the result of images clicked by using this rule can come off as obvious because of easy-to-locate focal points and the resulting distinct divisions of horizon lines, especially in landscapes. This can become a distraction, and the difference can be seen clearly in the images below.

The Phi Grid creates the perfect division of space. However, photography is an art and in art, there are no hard and fast rules. Hence, the Rule of Thirds also may be applied sometimes.

The Best Apps for the Golden Ratio

Nowadays, anyone with a phone camera can become a photographer and there are certain apps that can aid rising photographers.

  • The Camera Awesome App available for free on Apple’s App Store has the Fibonacci Spiral as an overlay. The Phi Camera App available for Apple users at a minimal cost of USD 1 has the Phi Grid available.
  • For Android Users the best app is Camera Zoom which has both the Spiral and the Grid available as overlays for only USD 3.
  • An editing software that would work well on laptops or PCs is Adobe Lightroom. It has the golden ratio overlay which can be used by pressing the O key while cropping an image.

Golden Ratio Photography presents a photographer with composition tools that are great ways to click appealing images. However, it is not necessary to follow it. Creativity and experimentation form the base of any work of art and one must not stick to certain design principles always.

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