The Rule of Thirds or the Golden Rectangle?

The Rule of Thirds or the Golden Rectangle?

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  1. One of the first rules that an photographer learns, whether it is self-taught or through formal learning, is the rule of thirds.  It is preached by veterans, and passed on from photographer to photographer in an effort to keep compositions interesting, and let the viewer of the photograph a clear idea of what the picture is about.  After some experience, the budding shutterbug will probably start looking through different composition techniques that are used by other photographers.  Some will look at posing, some will look at lighting, and some may find the golden rectangle.

    The Rule of Thirds

    The rule of thirds is simple.  You break up the view finding into a tic-tac-toe board.  The board breaks your viewfinder into three vertical pieces, and three horizontal pieces.  Subjects are often supposed to be bisected by one of the lines, and very small subjects are supposed to be placed at the intersections of these lines.  Horizon lines, or lines that cut off scenery, are supposed to be placed about 1/3 into the frame.  This is supposed to help with the composition of the photograph, keeping the content interesting, and giving the viewer a clue as to the story behind the picture.

    The Golden Rectangle

    The Golden Rectangle is based on the golden ratio and the Fibonacci Spiral.  If you notice the spiral on the right, you will see how it ends up focusing on one part of the rectangle. This part is the focus point of the photograph.  It can be any part of a subject that you want to bring to the viewer’s attention. It is often used for profile portraits as a place to put the eye of the subject.  It can be used for the center of a flower easily as well.  If you are photographing a landscape, placing a house, a tree, or some other prominent feature of the landscape in this spot can be a wise choice.  You do have to be careful of the size of the object that you are placing on the point, though, as it can become overpowering.

    When to Use Each Rule

    Generally, the type of photograph being taken helps to determine which rule is being used.  When the subject of a photograph is large, or there is a set of subjects that are in a row, are long, or are tall, the rule of thirds can be very helpful.  With a regular style portrait, placing the eyes using the rule of thirds can be very beneficial.  Using the golden rectangle comes in handy when the subject is a small part of the composition, and you only have one subject to place.  A single eye in a profile shot, the middle of a flower, or a toy in the lawn or on the carpet are all examples of when there is a single point where the golden rectangle rule can be used.  A combination of the rules can be used during a landscape shot, where the horizon can be placed on the third line, and a building or animal may be placed using the rule of thirds.

    There are no rules that always have to be followed during photography. It is an art with rules set as guidelines.  Sometimes the rules even seem to contradict each other, such as the two discussed here.  With some practice, you may be able to learn when to use the rules, and how to combine or disregard them depending on the need or style of the photograph you are creating.

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