How to Use the Golden Ratio in Photography Composition (Phi Grid & Golden Spiral)

Today we are gonna talk about the Golden ratio in photography, also known as Fibonacci spiral, golden spiral, phi grid, divine proportion, or the golden mean. It’s not a new concept. Famous works of art such as the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, and The Birth of Venus, among others, are all rumoured to have been composed based on the Golden Ratio. We can see it all around us, in nature too.

What is the Golden Ratio?

The golden ratio is a ratio of approximately 1.618 to 1. Eg if I have a and b, a is 1.618 times bigger than b.

How is it all around us you ask? Well observe yourself. It is said that the ratio of our upper arm to the lower arm is 1.618. Ratio of the palm to the finger, forehead to the rest of the face. Not just the human body, you may find it in animals, flowers, trees. So since nature follows the golden ratio, artwork composed by following this technique will automatically look natural and appealing.

There are several ways to use the golden ratio. The Phi Grid and the Fibonacci Spiral are the most common ones applied in photography.

Phi Grid

The Phi Grid looks very similar to the Rule of Thirds principle yet it has one very important difference. In the rule of thirds, but there we draw 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines in a 3×3 grid which give me the ratio 1:1:1, meaning the lines are at equal distance from each other. In the golden ratio, we’ll take these lines a little closer, so that they give me the ratio 1:0.618:1.

Hence this is my A i.e. 1.618 times bigger than My B. Using this method means that your subject is located a bit more central. This way, your composition will be more unique and draw the viewer’s attention quickly to your subject.

Fibonacci Spiral

It is said that sometime around the 12th century A.D. a mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci devised a series of numbers that will produce an aesthetically pleasing composition. This composition is hence named after him and known as the Fibonacci Spiral.

Here I have my A and B where A is 1.618 times bigger than B. I extend these lines into rectangles, here also rectangle A is 1.1618 times bigger than B. Again I divide rectangle B using the golden ratio. Then again, again, again, and again. And now start drawing a curve, beginning at the lower corner to the left. Lead the curve through the opposing corner up to the right. Keep drawing it until it has gone through the two opposing corners of each rectangle. And you’ll have this: A spiral. A pattern that we find everywhere in nature in shells, waves. This makes sure my eyes go straight to the object of interest and follow its natural expansion within the frame. The spiral can be towards any of the four corners.

Now you can use either the Phi Grid or the Fibonacci Spiral, whatever you like. If your scene has straight lines, you may try the grid and if your scene has more natural curves, the Fibonacci spiral is a better fit. But there is no hard and fast rule, you can experiment and play with them.

I guess most cameras don’t show up the Phi grid or Fibonacci spiral as an overlay while clicking. But 99% of them show the rule of thirds. Use the Rule of Thirds grid and estimate where the subject should be with the golden ratio technique. If you chose the Phi Grid, place the subject closer to the center of the image compared to that Rule of Thirds intersection. If you’re working with the Fibonacci spiral, place the subject farther out than the Rule of Thirds intersection.

 If you can’t visualize these new diagrams while clicking, it’s best if you can follow the rule of thirds while clicking and then play with your composition in post production. While using the crop tool, draw a crop box and click the icon for overlay options and select the golden ratio or golden spiral, click on cycle orientation to change the direction of the spiral, and crop accordingly.

I have made PNGs of the Phi Grid and Fibonacci Spiral. You can download them here and simply place them over your images in Photoshop and compose them.

I hope you liked my blog. Do let me know your suggestions and thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

Also Read – Rule Of Space in Photography

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