Golden Ratio in Photography

Artists in their art, not only describe the world but also influence the feelings and emotions of the viewer. They carefully compose their works. By a skilful selection of colours, shapes and proportions, it is possible to achieve perfect, harmonic beauty. In which all of the elements harmonize with each other so that they create an ideal composition. To accomplish these, many artists decide to follow the rule of the golden ratio.

Its history dates back to the 3rd century BC. Ancient philosophers, astronomers, mathematicians and artists wondered why the ratio 1 to 1.618 is so common in the natural world. We can observe it in the world of plants (in the branching system, flower structure) as well as in animals and humans (body proportions, the structure of the circulatory or nervous system). It is also possible that there is also a connection between the golden ratio and the human genome, the brain wave cycle and quantum physics. Scientists are still researching it and trying to understand it.


What is the Golden ratio?

The golden ratio is the division of the segment into two parts in such a way that the ratio of the length of the longer one to the shorter one is the same as that of the entire segment to the longer one.
You do not understand you? I wouldn't understand either.
There is another type of explanation for this relationship: the length of the longer part of the segment is the arithmetic mean of the length of the shorter part and the entire segment.
The value of this magical ratio is called the golden number and is approximately 1.618


From the theoretical content, we also need the concept of the golden rectangle. It is a rectangle in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter side is equal to the golden proportion (which looks very aesthetically pleasing). It can also be cut into a square and a smaller rectangle with the same proportions as the cut one.


Golden ratio in photography

 Knowing the principle of the golden ratio, we can cleverly use it when composing photos. We divide the staff with 4 lines according to the golden rule, thanks to which we get the so-called golden ratio grid. The intersections of the lines define the strong points of the frame, i.e. places where it is best to place the most important elements of the image.
On the one hand, the strong points are quite close to the centre of the photo, and on the other hand, they are moved away from it. Such an arrangement of objects in the frame will allow us to strongly emphasize the relationship between them and maintain a harmonious appearance of the entire frame.
Horizontal lines are also a good indicator for placing, for example, a horizon or dividing the frame due to distinguishable colours

Golden spiral 

This is what pops up on Google when we enter the password "golden ratio". The golden spiral is based on the golden ratio principle. It is created when we divide the golden rectangle into a square and a smaller golden rectangle (we can do this indefinitely), and then in those squares, we draw interconnecting quarters of circles. And it is from these quarters that a spiral is formed.
The use of a spiral when framing makes the photos seem almost mesmerizing. Eyesight is conducted from one end of the frame to a strong point. The image is harmonious but also captivating.

The golden ratio and perception

Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, explains why the golden ratio is all around us. Well, the eyes scan the image much faster when it has the form of the golden ratio.
It is much easier for us to analyze an image from one side to the other (left to right) than from top to bottom. He explains it by evolutionary adaptation - in the past, the danger came mainly from the side or the back. Therefore, units that developed the ability to effectively scan their surroundings faster had a better chance of survival.

The beginnings of the psychology of art

Gustaw Teodor Fechner (1801-1887) is considered one of the fathers of experimental psychology, and he also contributed to the development of the psychology of art, and more specifically the psychology of aesthetics.
Fechner wondered if it was possible to define general criteria of beauty, or whether its perception was an individual matter for each of us. To test the sense of aesthetics, he decided to use the principle of the golden ratio, and more specifically the golden rectangle.
For his experiment, he prepared paper rectangles with different edge lengths. 
The figures had or were very different from the golden ratio. Fechner asked the respondents which rectangles they liked best. He wanted to check whether those with golden proportions would be chosen more often than others. It turned out that the participants liked the golden rectangles more (it was preferred by slightly more than a third of the study group), which made the psychologist very happy.

Admittedly, later it turned out that his research could not be confirmed. The principle of pure exposure worked during the experiment. The subjects just liked the rectangles whose proportions were best known to them, because in those days the principle of the golden ratio was very popular. The latest detailed research from 2008, conducted by a team led by Chris McManus of University College London, indicates that "over a century of experimental work has shown that the golden ratio does indeed play a minor normative role in the preferences of respondents regarding rectangles."

Nevertheless, Fechner's experiments made a significant contribution to the advancement of research on aesthetics, and I am very grateful for that.

Leave a comment