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Basic Photography Lessons, Golden Section, Golden Ratio


One thing that plays part in making a photograph that is pleasing to the eyes is the spacing, or the position at which the subject lies in the picture. Architects use the "divine ratio" or the "golden ratio" which has a value of 1:(1+√5)/2 or 1:1.618034 as a basis for making naturally appealing structures as it has been proven that anything in nature that we find beautiful, uses this ratio. It seems to flow naturally and is always appealing to the human eye.

In photography the golden ratio is also used as a basis for a well composed photograph. The Golden Section Rule states that the eye is naturally drawn the points that lie within this ratio in a photograph. In order to achieve this, the picture is divided into 9 unequal but symmetrical parts with 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines as guide. The distance from the top to the first horizontal line must be in a golden ratio against the distance from this line to the bottom of the picture. The same goes to the distance of the bottom horizontal line to the bottom of the picture against the distance of this line to the top of the picture. The same must be followed for the vertical lines.


golden section


Placing your subject along any of these lines, specially on the intersections, makes it more naturally attractive to the viewer. These intersections are sometimes called "Power Points". For portraits, the eyes of the subject are often positioned along one of the horizontal lines preferrably near one of the power points to make the photograph more pleasing to look at. For landscapes the horizon is aligned to any of the horizontal lines depending on which part is the focus of the photograph. If you want to capture the sky, align the horizon to the lower horizontal line. If you want to show the field or the sea, then align the horizon on the upper horizontal line.