Have you ever wondered why particular natural images appear more visually striking than others? While you might be photographing the same subject, but some angles look better than others? This effect might be because of the Golden Spiral (or golden ratio). But what is it, and how can you apply it in your photographs?
What is the golden spiral?
Let’s start by talking about what the golden ratio/spiral is. Leonardo Fibonacci initially designed this mathematical expression. Without getting too complicated, the golden ratio is 1.618 to 1. The golden spiral uses this ratio to create a series of squares. The size and placement of the squares are based on the Fibonacci sequence. Then, working from the opposite corner of each square, you should be able to connect them, which will form a spiralling arc.
While this sounds like a complex concept, it isn’t. The audience’s attention will be focused on the square. The spiral is how the viewer’s eyes will move as they follow the object’s natural curves. This spiral will force you to focus on where objects are in the frame, which we’ll discuss later when discussing how to apply this concept.
When this ratio is applied, it can make works of art more visually appealing. For example, the golden ratio was used when designing the pyramids. This ratio was also used by Leonardo da Vinci when he was painting the last supper. It can also be found in the way that shells look. You might also be able to find evidence of the golden ratio when looking at pineapples and honeycomb.
As mentioned earlier, the golden spiral will direct your eye around the picture, which gives you the chance to dictate where the audience should be looking. You’ll also be able to keep everything in the correct proportions. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways that you’ll be able to apply the golden spiral in your photography.
Step one: Find the Subject
The first thing you’ll need to do is find your subject, which is where you want to focus the audience’s attention. In most cases, the olden ratio works best if the photo’s focus is the most intricate thing in the frame. If you have people, they will often be made the focus. When finding the focus, consider other aspects of photography. For example, the eye will often be drawn to lighter objects before it goes to darker ones. If there is something profoundly emotional in the picture, it should be the focus. Keeping this in mind will help you use the image to tell a story.
Once you know where you are putting the subject, you’ll need to think about where you will put everything else. It will be easier to apply the golden spiral if you have some natural curves that you can follow. One of the most common examples of this is a surfer riding a wave. In this case, the surfer would be the focus of the picture. The wave would be the natural curve. Coastlines that lead to a point of interest (like a sea stack) are another example.
Step two: Adjust the composition
Once you know what the subject will be and where the natural curves will be, you’ll be able to start working on the composition. In some cases, your camera might come with a golden spiral overlay. This overlay will make it easy for you to find where everything should be. If not, you’ll need to do it by eye.
It’s important to remember that the subject can be anywhere in the frame. You’ll then need to follow the natural curves of the item. By doing this, the viewer should automatically be attracted to the object of interest. Then, they will follow it through the frame.
Remember that changing the position you’re standing in, and the angle you’re shooting from can significantly impact the type of pictures you’re getting. Between each shot, check the image. Studying the image will give you a better idea of how you’ll need to adjust the camera to get a better picture next time.
Step three: Edit the photo
The next thing that you’ll need to do is edit the photograph. Editing will allow you to create a golden spiral better by cropping. Most photo editing software will have a golden spiral function built-in, which will bring up a grid pattern. You’ll then be able to match the items in your photo to the grid. You can also edit your photo in a way to enhance the effect of the golden spiral by for example selectively brightening up your point of interest while keeping other parts slightly darker.
Step four: Practice
It will often take several photographs before you fully understand the concept behind the golden spiral. During these first few pictures, focus on your composition. Try to know where each element should be going. When you first start taking pictures, it can often be best to focus on things that have a natural curve. Usually, this will mean photographing natural formations like waves, rocks, or trees. You might also find natural curves in architecture, things like staircases or the roof of a building.
Once you are confident with the Golden Spiral, feel free to experiment with other types of curves. For example, you might want to make a curve with the clouds in the sky or people. There are plenty of ways that you’ll be able to apply the golden spiral to direct people’s focus.
The Golden Spiral can be a great way to focus the audience’s eye, directing them through your image. This composition technique can help you improve the way you compose the photos. It can also be used when editing to create more appealing shots. So, try taking some pictures that follow the golden spiral today and see if it improves your photography.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.
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