The Golden Section: What a 12th Century Italian Mathematician Can Teach Photographers About Composition

By Rob Wood (Admin) / August 29, 2010

A lost of people know about the rule of thirds, the s-curve as well as other elements of photographic composition. Let's have a look at something that is a little more advanced in the world of image composition that was discovered by a 12th century Italian mathematician called Fibonacci.

Introducing The Golden Section

The Golden Section is simply a compositional rule that dictates that a well composed image can be achieved by dividing the frame by 1.6 several times.

By doing this, you get a pattern like this:

La famosa espiral

Image courtesy of Nam Nam

The Geek Explanation

Fibonacci is most famous for developing a series of number sequence which adds the previous two numbers:

0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55…

When you divide successive numbers, you come up with 1.6 which is a key in mathematics to proportions (hence its relationship to photography). When you apply the Fibinacci sequence to a rectangle you get a tiling with squares whose sides are successive Fibonacci numbers in length. Each square is roughly 1.6 times as big as the last. Like this:

How to Use the Golden Section

Images speak louder than words, so have a look at this image and the one below it to see an almost perfect application of the Golden Section in action. The proportions and composition are textbook Golden Section.

NatAmerSD--_MG_0684

Photo by DJ Flickr

Golden_Section_SD--_MG_0684

Photo by DJ Flickr

Now, this one is a lot more difficult than say, the rule of thirds to apply to your photos. However, with practice you will get better. The great thing is that the Golden Section adds another tool to your arsenal of composition.

Fibonacci Numbers
Photo by James Michael Hill

Fibonacci
Photo by Alex Decarvalho


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About the author

Rob Wood (Admin)

Rob was given his first camera (the awesome and powerful Kodak Instamatic of the late 70s) at the age of 5. He still hasn’t quite mastered it. When he isn’t tinkering on the internet updating Light Stalking, he can often be found on his unending quest for the perfect landscape shot. Rob started Light Stalking simply because he loves writing and photography. It grew to be one of the most referenced photography sites in the world. Rob is also the co-founder of Photzy.com and you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and mail as well.

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