The "Golden Section" versus the "Rule of Thirds."

GaryT

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When a child draws a picture you could apply most of these 'rules' to the vast majority of their sketches. I would say 80% of the drawings my 4 year old niece does would fit into the rule of thirds. It's not a rule, it's the way your mind works.

If you look long and hard enough at a turd I'm sure you will see a pattern in it. I don't see why people have a need to pick things apart to try and shoehorn any and everything into some sort of neat little box. Art in any of its forms is NOT maths, there is no super secret equation that will explain all.

A true artist does what they do because they enjoy it, they create based an their own vision. How can you fit that into a definition??
 

DiskoJoe

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You guys should think less and shoot more. Both of the rules will give similar output.

Maybe you don't think enough!

Probably :lol:

But creativity is a very natural process most of the time. I refer to a saying by Afrika Bambaataa......

"Free yo mind, Your ass will follow!"
 

KenC

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One of the big problems with trying to compare these methods for an actual photograph is that, while one might be able to sense the difference between them with a very small symmetrical object placed on one of the points, this is much more difficult with real-world objects. For example, if the object in question is a car, presumably the center of the car should be on the relevant point in the frame. What is the "center" of a car? One could determine the line horizontally at half the height and the one vertically mid-way between the front and back and call the intersection the "center," but cars (at least sedans) are smaller on top, so based on the area of the car, the center should be lower, i.e., the center of mass of the car. The difference between these two I'm sure is more than the difference between the two "rules."
 

Designer

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Using classical ratios in composition is just another tool, which most of the time it is only discovered after the fact.

Photographers, unless the subject is still life, almost never have the opportunity to adjust a composition to fit any of the ratios before snapping a photo. We can sometimes make the picture fit within one of the ratios while editing, but in the end, it is usually done simply "by eye". If a composition looks good, then it probably looks good to everyone. This is where the training of the eye comes in.

The more experienced artist can hit the ratios faster and with more ease and precision than a beginner. All done without measuring anything because he has done it so many times he "just knows".

So while one composition looks better with one certain ratio, another composition might look better with a different ratio, and unless someone does some measuring, none of the small differences can be said to be "better" than another.

The ratios should be thought of as simply a way of explaining why a composition works, rather than something to aim for.
 

peter27

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I think most of us compose our shots quite intuitively. The problem with such things as the golden ratio or the rule of thirds is that they set out to encapsulate and explain this a priori knowledge or gut feeling that we all have. If you use these things to check what you've produced against perceived norms, that's okay and it will give you an idea of how your work might be received. However, if you use them as a guide to your production you are likely to stifle your creativity.

In language there are two main types of grammar: descriptive and prescriptive. The golden ratio was, I'm sure, first devised by the ancient Greeks as a descriptive device; a means of recording and understanding what was already there and that they felt was right. It attempted if you will to explain intuition. The problem we have today is that it and the more modern rule of thirds have become prescriptive and now dictate what we think should be there and what is right: or more to the point what is wrong. They attempt to teach intuition, which is preposterous.
 

cowleystjames

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In the grand scheme of producing good images what difference does it all really make if someone came up with golden rules or rules of thirds, or any other rules. I grew up not knowing any of this stuff and if I did, would it have made my images better, I seriously doubt it.

Bang on, rules are meant to be broken and people that slavishly follow rules need to get a life :D
 

amolitor

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I don't think I have yet dragged out my other standard bit of rhetoric for this thread, so:

Go look at some actual good pictures, keeping in mind as many of these silly modern rules (and they are all very modern, claims to ancientness notwithstanding) and see how many actual good pictures follow any of them.
 

Designer

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In the grand scheme of producing good images what difference does it all really make if someone came up with golden rules or rules of thirds, or any other rules. I grew up not knowing any of this stuff and if I did, would it have made my images better, I seriously doubt it.

Bang on, rules are meant to be broken and people that slavishly follow rules need to get a life :D

I will add that in order to break the rules, one must first understand the rules and know when, why, and how to effectively break them.
 

imagemaker46

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In the grand scheme of producing good images what difference does it all really make if someone came up with golden rules or rules of thirds, or any other rules. I grew up not knowing any of this stuff and if I did, would it have made my images better, I seriously doubt it.

Bang on, rules are meant to be broken and people that slavishly follow rules need to get a life :D

I will add that in order to break the rules, one must first understand the rules and know when, why, and how to effectively break them.

As I mentioned, I never knew there were rules in photography, I had no rules to understand or break.
 

Designer

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As I mentioned, I never knew there were rules in photography, I had no rules to understand or break.

Nevertheless, you learned what is good and what didn't work well.

In case anyone missed it, I said that the "rules" as I see them are more of a way to explain composition in simple terms. Most successful photography exhibits one or more "rule" whether the photographer planned it in advance or not.

I understand that when you were learning from your father, he probably never mentioned any "rule", and for all I know might not have heard of them, but he knew from experience how to make a good composition.
 

Overread

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imagemaker46 - we get that you never formally learned artistic theory; just as you likely started out never formally learning photography. But you grew up in a household with a photographer who was more than just a product photographer. Thus that influence guided your childhood - you learned without realising that you learned. You studied photos and mirrored what you saw in them in your own work - and since you viewed a wide variety your influences were thus broader than most (remember most people don't really "look" at photos or art; they just glance at them without pausing to really see or learn how to see how the elements of the photo work and don't work). **

When a child draws a picture you could apply most of these 'rules' to the vast majority of their sketches. I would say 80% of the drawings my 4 year old niece does would fit into the rule of thirds. It's not a rule, it's the way your mind works.

Compositional theories/guidelines/rules are just that - they are the summary of theories based upon observation of popular artistic works and the aim of understanding those patterns in life that we find pleasing to view. It's no surprise that we see similar patterns in creative art that we also see mirrored in life itself since our environment and life around us likely influences us greatly in what we find to be pleasing.

Yes there are new and old theories and some conflict, but the fact that many theories do work and that many are seen time and time again in works of art lends to the suggestion that the theories do work.

As for the notion of breaking and using rules remember its not a game of rules. Some here hear and read about composition but get terribly distracted by the single word "rule" when its used. They latch on and suddenly the compositional theory is lost out the window as it becomes a game of following or not following the rules (where upon several groups rise up with those who mindlessly follow and those who mindlessly refuse to follow or break the "rules").

As said many times there are no "RULES". There are one or two theories called things like "rule of thirds" but its not a rule. It's a compositional theory that aims to allow one to understand some of the science and theory behind what humans find visually pleasing within a selected frame of existence (ergo a painting, a sculpture, a photo). Learning them simply helps to broaden ones visual library of options to compose and create with; you can just as easily learn it by copy and repeat of famous works; but often understanding the theory is actually superior. That is because when you understand some of why the theory is supposed to work you can use that underlaying concept to build into your photos and use the concept itself in different ways.

The biggest thing though is to get the idea of rules out of your mind. Think of them at theories; take time to learn some; take time to experiment and play around and remember that much like when you learned exposure, the learning will feel like following a formula - like repeating over and over and like its filling your mind when you go to shoot. Then one day it won't be - it will slip to the back of your mind and become more instinctive and from that you'll be able to be far more creative within your photography (provided you allow yourself to be rather htan simply finding something that works and repeating it over and over).



Edit
** let me clarify that I'm not talking down about any form of learning. Formal learning of a subject is not the only way to learn and in no way is superior or inferior; it is just a different approach. There are many ways to learn and any way can be very in-depth and detailed. Formal methods tend to be more commonly promoted online simply because its very hard to tutor something in a subject that is very hands on like photography in a remote sense without writing books worth of content (at which point pointing toward formally written books helps a lot in saving fingers from pages of typing).

Heck many who learn from their parents at a young age might never have a degree in their subject of interest or any formal learning, but they can often be very experienced and well known within their field.
 
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amolitor

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In case anyone missed it, I said that the "rules" as I see them are more of a way to explain composition in simple terms. Most successful photography exhibits one or more "rule" whether the photographer planned it in advance or not.

Really? Go to some web site or another with some tips, tricks, and general advice on composition for photographers, pick one of the good ones not some cheesy linkbait one. Re-familiarize yourself with the advice they give.

Now go look at a bunch of successful photographs, be it Ansel Adams, Gene Smith, photos from a fashion spread in Vogue, whatever. How applicable to those pictures are the rules you have just familiarized yourself with? As you go, judge how far you're having to stretch a rule to make it fit the picture -- any rule can be stretched to fit any picture, the point is to understand how far it's stretching.

I dunno about you, but I was shocked the first time I actually tried this out. It's important to actually do the experiment rather than just sort of thinking about it.
 

Buckster

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Overread said what comes to mind for me whenever I read this oft-brought up topic. The big hangup and taking of sides in black and white terms, the acceptance or push-back of the "rules", and so on, seems predicated on the use of the word "rule" itself, as though people see it as a law or something. Sure, that's one definition, but it's not the correct definition in this case.

It's quite simply not, and shouldn't ever be considered that way. "Rule", in the case of these related topics in compositional theory, is short for "Rule Of Thumb". That's it and that's all. And for those who don't know what a "Rule Of Thumb" is, here's a pretty good definition from Wiki:

Rule of thumb

A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.

Anyone who takes it more seriously than that and attempts to discuss it in terms of rules as laws like those that govern countries or games or scientific theories, such as the laws of physics that cannot be broken; Laws as immutable things that can or can't or could or couldn't or should or shouldn't be broken, has a fundamental misunderstanding of the proper application of the word in this case, and probably a fundamental misunderstanding of compositional theory and application as well, if they think "rule" as applied to compositional theory is some sort of strict convention that actually warrants such lengthy back and forth discussions about whether one should adhere to or break it/them.
 

Overread

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amolitor - true however photography is more than just art. There are many photos which are not famous for their artistry, but instead for the emotion in the scene/subjects; for the scene they record, for the memories, heck there are many famous for just showing people of the time or products in clear even lighting. Photography is more than just an art form and as such one has to learn that the worth of a photo can be measured in artistic quality, but its not the only thing.

It's just the same as a beginner learning that a "great photo of my kid" has major exposure and compositional problems and can be very bad to others who don't have the already established emotional connection with the subject.


That said there are indeed many works of art which don't conform to artistic theory = some of them are often simply just the beginnings of new theories based upon what was discovered to work with them. In the past art, esp professional art, was often held to strict rules and guild lines - there were indeed "laws" of art and if you didn't conform you were simply not considered worthy to be displayed or respected. Today you are much more free to develop art to your vision and still have teh chance to be respected and accepted - however this also creates a lot of average or lower quality art in the world that muddies the picture a bit.
 

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