The Golden Ratio in Photography

The Golden Ratio in Photography
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Top: The Golden Triangle is an intermediate tool, primarily used in landscapes, or just scenes with diagonal lines. Try lining up the lines of intersection with a vanishing point, if your image has one, or if you’re taking a picture of a guitarist, try lining up the angle of the guitar with the golden lines.

Bottom L to R: The Golden Rectangle is the simplest to use, as most photography novices should be familiar with it’s more simple cousin, the Rule of Thirds. The application is simple, have your point of focus, or subject, fall on any of the golden line or line intersections. For landscape, make the horizon fall on one of the lines. For portraits, experiment with the intersections over your subjects eye.

The Golden Spiral is the final form of composition, and arguably the hardest to use effectively. To use it effectively, you will have to be creative, but often times, it simply will not work. Typically the subject will be placed in the origin of the spiral, with parts of the subject following the flow of the spiral, like in the example given. But I’ve seen it used in many different ways.

Story and Photos by Dennis Gonzales
Courier Contributor

First off, what is the Golden Ratio?

Simply put, it’s an irrational number represented by the value 1.618… with the decimal point going on infinitely, not unlike unlike Pi, which goes on from 3.14…

Why is it important?

The golden ratio has been observed in patterns in nature, such as the spiral pattern of seeds in a sunflower, nautilus shells in the form of the Fibonacci spiral, and even the formation of our limbs. As an experiment, measure the length of your arm from your shoulder to your elbow, then measure from your elbow to your wrist, then divide the first value, with the second value (sorry, more math). Was it close to 1.618? How about the length of your forearm divided by the length of your hand? Or even the sections of your fingers or toes measured against each other? Freaked out yet? Me too.
It goes beyond nature though, and has been observed in works of art as well, most prominently in the Greek Parthenon and the Mona Lisa. Though there has been little evidence of the ratio’s explicit usage in the creation of those works, but that hasn’t stopped its use in modern applications, such as architecture, music, and photography.

So how is it used in photography?

There are three primary methods, golden rectangles; golden triangles, and golden spirals.
At the end of the day, the golden ratio is not meant to be the be all and end all of photography. But it’s an incredibly useful tool to improve your compositions purely by the virtue of getting you to think about them in unique and different ways.

Why do they work?

Heck if I know, they just do sometimes. The Golden Ratio is the utter definition of je ne sais quoi.

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