Lazy RULE OF THIRDS in Photography
April 28, 2009, 01:35 PM
by Yogi Sujiwo
I can count on one hand the number of
rules I will obey without question, based solely on fear of
catastrophic consequences: I turn off personal electronics during
landing and take-off, I keep my hands inside the ride at all times, I
don’t rock vending machines, I resist the urge to climb over zoo fences
and I no longer lunge for a police officer’s holstered gun on April
Fools Day. Pretty much everything else is up for debate.
That brings me to the Rule of Thirds .
After a tremendous amount of research (I read a book) I learned that
the rule of thirds may actually be just a lazy man’s sham. That’s
right, I said it… a lazy sham! On the surface the
rule of thirds doesn’t really make a ton of sense, I mean why would a
composition broken up into three equal parts be innately more appealing
than any other random spattering in a composition? Well what if I told
you that nature actually does instinctively, and inexplicably
seem to have a naturally occurring preference towards a specific ratio,
a peculiar number, a divine ratio if you will?
find the real story behind the “rule of thirds” we need to go back in
time, not to the renaissance, not to the Greeks, and not even to Adam
nor Eve… even further. We need to go to the creation of the universe,
why is that? Well I’ll tell you why. There is a number that
determines how a sunflower’s seeds grow, it determines the path a hawk
takes when diving at it’s prey, it is echoed in the breeding habits of
rabbits and it even determines how the spirals in a spiral galaxy are
laid out. It’s all very simple in it’s beauty and best of all, it’s
all true. If you want to wrap your head around it further then I highly
recommend the book The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio (Check it out here The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number ).
Interestingly enough this mathematical principle has been seen in
artwork as early as 400 B.C., today we refer to this line by several
names: the Golden Ratio , the Golden Mean, The Divine Proportion, but whatever you call it you should notice that it does not line up with the rule of thirds. Almost but not quite…
In other words, if you want to construct a composition where the
main points fall on lines used by nature in absolutely mind-blowingly
different ways then follow the Golden Mean. However, if you want to
fold up the paper into thirds and have your composition line up with that then by all means, follow the rule of thirds.
Of course I’m not recommending that you get out your protractor and
start measuring your images to makes sure they follow these naturally
occurring principles, but what I am recommending that you do
is to start seeing the world in a way that Mother Nature tends to see
the world, and that is in a proportion that is absolutely elegant in
it’s mathematical beauty. If you do then your images may start to be just a bit stronger in their appeal.
The following images are all happy accidents… meaning the alignment of this spiral (called a Fibonacci spiral )
was not pre-planned, it just happens that major parts of the
composition fall along major intersections or lines within the spiral.
I suppose that’s just one more thing my images and breeding patterns of
rabbits have in common.
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