In the previous part we took a look at the most commonly used way of composing shots- the Rule of Thirds. We’ll have a closer look now at two less complexed “rules” of composition- Golden Ratio and Guiding lines (also known as Geometric forms), as we are not going to examine the mathematical aspect of these two rules.


What is actually the Golden Ratio? More elementary presented, this is a split the picture in half as the ratio between the two halves is 1:1,618 (along the long side) after which the so formed square/rectangle from the part in which the ratio is 1, is split again in 1:1,618 and so on…Then you draw a spiral starting from the centre of the picture…. That’s right-spiral, the so called spiral of Fibonacci. Why exactly spiral? Because it has been proved that exactly this form is mostly common in our surrounding world- rapana shells, the position of the seeds of a sunflower, even in space, where the Milky Way is in the form of a spiral. What is important here anyway?


…. Well this is the centre. By superimposing of the spiral of Fibonacci we can define the object of interest in the shot where the main object is put at the beginning of the spiral. In that particular case the girl from the couple is on the right place. On that place exactly two diagonals are crossed – the one of the main rectangle and the one of the second biggest rectangle.


As you may guess the ratio between the two rectangles is 1:1,618. We used much mathematics so far but the most important thing here is that you should know that the positioning of the objects using the Golden ratio is not an exact science. The basic statement is that if the main object is put at the beginning of the spiral (or the place where the two diagonals are crossed) this predisposes to better visual effect.


However there is another statement that says that if the object is put upon or near the joining lines the effect of the picture would be equally pleasant. But why is that?


It’s because this would be predisposed to different side of the Golden Ratio- Phi Grid. The same as in the Rule of the Thirds it splits the picture into 9 parts but with different proportions where the ratio is 1:1,618:1 (enough with the mathematics!). Here the requirement again is the object to be upon or near the crossing lines. As we know from the previous topic the place where the lines are crossed is where our eyes are usually attracted to. In other words- don’t put objects in the centre of the shot unless there is a particular reason they to be there. More precisely the main difference between the Rule of the thirds and the Phi Grid can be found when cropping a certain picture. In such an endeavour if you “cut” the picture according to the Phi Grid the main object will be just so close to the crossing lines as it would be if cropped according to the Rules of the Thirds, but on the left and on the right side it will remain more of the original picture. The reason is that in 85% of the cases with Phi Grid, crop is needed only above and below due to the mathematical ratio of the longitude of the lines (here we go again with Maths).

Now we’ll pay attention to the Guiding (Leading) lines or Geometric forms. It is important to know about them that we are talking here about lines that guides the eyes to the main object as well as geometric forms that “surround” it. Quite often it’s about diagonals.


In this picture the object is put in the middle of the shot but the diagonals of the two sides make the eyes go into the object but without forcing them to stop on one and the same place. Subconsciously the vision sends us to the object but without leaving us to look at one point only. The diagonals are extremely easily applicable and in shots in which neither the Golden Ratio nor the Rule of the Thirds suggest a good composition, are able to change utterly the visual atmosphere.


Here’s a typical example of a lack of whatever composition- the horizon is lifted to the centre of the shot; there is no main object that to be highlighted. However there are lines although not diagonals or some geometric form, that lead the eyes to the sunset. Using diagonals or geometric forms is extremely practical, easy and as it was seen in the example above- if there is nothing in the picture that leads the eye, no matter how much additional colouring I’ve used in the picture I wouldn’t get much from the shot.

However I should mention that not always when you rely on the Golden Ratio, your picture would become brilliant. This is not an exact science and a rule that should be followed in any case. This is just another way to try to make your composition and only then to make the shot.

Author: Pavel Ivanov