The Golden Rectangle in Photography

February 18, 2010

Photography and painting are related as we have discussed in an earlier post about the Rule of Thirds. Perhaps more important is the theory that when God created the world he used mathematics, and in particular Fibonacci number sequence where each new number is the sum of the previous two numbers.

The result of these numbers turns out to be a spiral known as the Spira Mirabilis, and this spiral can be found throughout nature in such things as the shell of a nautilus.

The relationship between the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Rectangle comes from a visual representation of the sequence geometrically. By using successive points to divide the Golden Rectangle into squares creates a logarithmic spiral known as the “Spira Mirabilis”.

The Golden Rectangle On Top Of The Rule Of Thirds

The Golden Rectangle On Top Of The Rule Of Thirds

Simply stated the Golden Rectangle in photography refers to using a 3:2 aspect ratio in framing a subject. Many times when using the 3 to 2 ratio it appears the same as the Rule of Thirds, and if we overlay the Rule of Thirds over the Golden Rectangle as in this image to the right you can see the relationship between them.

This lead to the concept of perfect composition by the famous photographer Cartier-Bresson who learned this from the visual training he received from the Cubist painter Andre Lhote. Starting in 1928 Henri Cartier-Bressen studied painting under Lhote, and this training eventually lead to what he called “The Decisive Moment” in photography.

Cartier-Bressen never cropped any of his photographs, instead relying upon applying the visual learning he acquired from studying with Lhote. All of his photographs were framed within the geometry of a 35mm film frame.

This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.” By looking at several of Bresson’s photographs, we can clearly see the close relationship between his compositions and the Golden Rectangle. The amazing thing is that, unlike a painter who can create his compositions at his leisure, Cartier-Bresson had to discover them in the unpredictable and relentless tempo of everyday life.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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