The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is classic compositional tool for artists and photographers. The ratio is actually quite mathematical, which is explained very well here. This mesmerising spiral would appear to be everywhere, from the humble cauliflower and ancient fossils to Donald Trump’s haircut.

Art and the Golden Ratio

Artists have long known the power of the Golden Ratio and it is a ‘rule’ evidenced in many pieces of artwork, including that of Leonardo DeVinci, Mark Rothko and Michelangelo. In the Rothko print below, the ratio of the two colours along the vertical edge is 1 : 1.618, Ie. the Golden Ratio.

Photography and KISS

OK, so we finally get to photography, but why KISS? KISS stands for Keep It Simple – Stupid! If you already use the rule of thirds, then you are not far off the Golden Ratio, this is part of the much simpler rule of, ‘don’t always stick your subject in the middle of the frame’. Basically, the subject of the photo has to be towards the edge of the frame, but not too close. Be ‘offish’ with your photo.

With some camera models, you are able to superimpose a Golden Ratio frame in the viewfinder of the screen. However, most of the time I apply the GR ‘rule’ while in Lightroom. If you would like to know how this is done, read on…

The Golden Ratio in Lightroom

This is not intended as a detailed Lightroom tutorial, but it will give you some idea of my workflow. However, this should work as a basic guide!

First select your image and then select the crop tool. Below is a photo, which I have cropped to lose some of the distractions. The grid placed over the image follows the rule of thirds.

Next I scroll through the overlays using the ‘O’ key until I get the magic spiral. In the first image, the spiral is not orientated as I would like it to be. In the second image I have used the shift (O) keys to change the orientation. I have also cropped the photo to fit the Golden Ratio.

This is not the only overlay in Lightroom that uses the Golden Ratio. Below you can see the pattern applied to a photo captured in Shanghai, aptly titled MY Bum (sorry – that was cheap). As you can see, it is not that far off the Rule of Thirds.

Other Examples

Here are some other examples that show just how versatile th rule is. As with any ‘rule’, there are no police here and it is not an exact science. Play withe the overlay until you are comfortable with the results. A few mm either way is not going to make a lot of difference.

In Portraits
Family Photos
Documentary Images

What Next?

If you have Lightroom then give this overlay a chance, you may find it helps you make an intelligent crop. If you edit using another software, then there is a strong likelihood it offers something similar. If you don’t really spend time editing your photos (you should!), just be ‘offish’, sling the centre of attention towards one of the corners, just don’t get too close.

Take Care Folks, and Keep Clicking, Chris