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Composition Techniques I. – Golden Ratio

In our Composition Techniques blog series, we’ll be sharing lots of basic photography techniques that anyone can learn with practice. These techniques are used not only by beginners but also by professional photographers every day.

Have you ever…

Have you ever looked at a photo and just known something felt…off? Maybe the subject was smack dab in the center, or the horizon line chopped the image in half. Have you seen lines on your camera or phone several times, but didn’t know what the point was? This article is for you! We’re going to explore a powerful tool that’s been around for centuries: golden ratio!

Think of the golden ratio as a magical number, roughly 1.618 to 1. It’s a mathematical formula that appears everywhere in nature, from the spiral of a seashell to the lovely sunflowers. Or even our ears.

The human brain is wired to find these proportions inherently pleasing.

About the technique

So, how can we harness this magic in our photography? By using the golden ratio to position the elements in our frame, we can create a sense of balance, harmony, and visual interest. Imagine placing your subject – that amazing portrait or mountain range – right on a “sweet spot” that naturally draws the viewer’s eye.

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How to

Here’s the best part: using the golden ratio is easier than you might think!

  • Grid Power: Many cameras have a handy grid overlay feature. Turn it on, and you’ll see your viewfinder divided into nine squares. The golden ratio “sweet spots” lie roughly along the intersecting lines of these squares.
 
  • Rule of Thirds BFF: Now, you might already be familiar with the rule of thirds, another compositional technique. The good news is, the golden ratio and the rule of thirds are best friends! The golden ratio “sweet spots” actually fall near the intersection points of the lines in the rule of thirds grid. So, if you’re already using the rule of thirds, you’re halfway to mastering the golden ratio! I’m sure you’ve seen it many times on your phone.

Rule of Thirds

Golden Ratio

Other tips


  •  The golden ratio encourages placing your subject off-center. This creates tension and intrigue, drawing the viewer’s eye on a journey through the frame. Imagine a captivating portrait where the model’s gaze falls on one of the “sweet spots,” leaving room for negative space that adds a touch of mystery.
  • Use leading lines in your composition to guide the viewer’s eye directly to your subject. Imagine a winding path through a forest strategically placed along a golden ratio line, luring the viewer towards a hidden waterfall at the end.
  • Create a stunning sense of depth by positioning your foreground and background elements on the golden ratio lines. Picture a majestic mountain range filling the background, perfectly aligned with the golden ratio, while a lone wildflower in the foreground rests on another “sweet spot,” creating a captivating sense of distance.

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”

Pablo Picasso

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, 1665

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