If you want to photographs that will amaze and delight, then following the rule of thirds (a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography and design) is certainly a great place to start (and one that I’ve been trying to pay more attention to recently). A simple way to remind yourself of this is to turn on the guides on your camera’s LCD screen - which on my Panasonic G2 gives me a 3x3 grid over the screen.
However after a while, it can deliver somewhat predictable results, as you’re always placing the horizon either a third of the way from the top of the frame to emphasize the foreground; or two thirds of the way from the top of the frame to emphazise the clouds. I’ve certainly noticed that after a few dozen landscape shots following the rule of thirds that I’m in need of a change.
Lifehacker just piqued my interest with an intro article pointing to a longer post on the digital photography school about the Fibonacci ratio, also known as the Golden Mean, Phi or Divine Proportion - and made famous by Leonardo Fibonacci around 1200AD. Interestingly I don’t recall covering this during my photography A-level, although we did the thirds rule.
Using this curve, you can compose an alternative grid which places the key lines closer to the center of the image. So the first thing you can do with the Phi grid is to use it just like the 3rds rule…
When applied to photography, this ratio can produce aesthetically pleasing compositions that can be magnets for the human sub-conscious. When you take the sweet spot of the Fibonnaci Ratio and recreate it four times into a grid, you get what looks to be a rule of thirds grid. However, upon closer inspection you will see that this grid is not an exact splitting of the frame into three pieces. Instead of a 3 piece grid that goes 1+1+1=frame, you get a grid that goes 1+.618+1=frame.
This image shows how James has aligned the left edge of the chap’s head with one of the lines; however he’s also gone further by aligning his right eye with the sweetspot of the Phi itself.
Get the full story on the Digital Photography School blog at Divine Composition with Fibonacci’s Ratio (The Rule of Thirds on Steroids)