Friday, 3 December 2010

Fibonacci Sequence, Or, The Golden Ratio

Hello Everybody!

I know I should be getting on with all the important things I've still got to do, as I'm so far behind, but I'm having a bit of a mental block at the minute, so I thought I'd write a quick post about an interesting article I read the other day.

As you're all loyal readers (aren't you?) I'm sure you'll all know that compared to a lot of people in class, I really struggle with composition. So, when something comes along that might help, I'll clutch hold of it, like a drowning man would to a piece of debris! That's why, when doing one of my frequent searches for anything useful, I was very happy to come across an article about using Fibonacci's number sequence to help compose pictures. Rather than just give you a link to the article (that would be too easy!) I'll try and explain it in this post.

Now, I'm sure this won't be news to those artist's amongst us, in fact, I'm sure if you asked her, Marie would be quite happy to quote the sequence to at least 50 places;) but for those of you like me, who can only vaguely remember learning about the sequence at school, let alone, any use it might be for photographers. I'll explain what the hell I'm talking about.

Again, if you're similar to me, you'll enjoy maths about as much as you'd enjoy a nice afternoon of invasive surgery, but I'm afraid a little bit is necessary to understand the principle. Just bear with me, and you'll be happy you did at the end.

So! What is Fibonacci's Number sequence? They're a sequence of numbers (obviously), named after Leonardo Fibonacci. Who brought them to the attention of the world in the early part of the thirteenth century. Sometimes starting with 0, and sometimes starting with 1. The sequence is basically calculated, by making the next number of the sequence, the sum of the previous two numbers. So we get: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21...and so on. and so forth, ad infinitum. Whilst this is great for calculating the direction of financial market patterns, or just showing off to you're friends in the pub. What does it actually mean to us humble photographers? Well, it can be used in a couple of ways, that basically equate to the same thing: The golden ratio!

The golden Ratio,or Phi (for you fans of the Greek alphabet), is 1:1.618... Which you can calculate by working out the ratio between two consecutive number in the Fibonacci sequence, by continuing up the scale you get closer and closer to the golden ratio. You can use this rule to compose a photograph, again in a couple of ways.

The first and simplest method is to split your picture in to three segments. Wait a minute! I hear you cry. Isn't this just the rule of the thirds? Yes, and no. The golden ratio is the rule of the thirds cranked all the way up to 11! (fans of spinal tap?) In the rule of thirds, you separate your picture in to three equal sections 1:1:1 (hence the name, thirds, you see.) But with the golden ratio, you split the picture in to three unequal sections 1:6.18:1, then use the resulting lines and intersections to compose the picture:

If you're going to use this file, the measurements aren't exact, just a guide, but I think I got them  fairly close.
It's also a png file, not a jpeg.

The second method is a bit more complicated, but a lot more interesting to look at. This uses something called the golden rectangle. A golden rectangle is basically a rectangle where the the measurements of the sides are related to phi, but when you unhitch the length from its connection with the width, then swing it round to create a new length, you also get a golden rectangle. If you continue to do this, then draw a curve from the corresponding corners of each square, you'll get one of these:

Fibonacci Curve, from wikipedia

A Fibonacci curve! This was created by starting with a 1x1 square, then creating golden rectangles and following the Fibonacci sequence up to 34. Again you can use this to compose your photographs. Simply orientate the spiral anyway you want, then place your point of interest at the centre of the spiral.This, as many artists over the years have discovered, gives you a naturally well composed picture.

Clearly, you can't be expected to work this out with the naked eye (I certainly can't anyway!) But, if you look at your photograph and aren't sure why it's not working, try overlaying one of these systems over the top in photoshop and try to crop the picture accordingly. See what it looks like. It might not help, but it's worth a try! Just be careful not to lose your original image.

Hope this helps people, and wasn't too boring.

Here's a link to the original article. It will probably explain it much more clearly than I have:Original Article

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