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News & Insight

Guest Editorial: If God was a photographer – Advanced composition

By Simon Ellingworth on March 30th 2013

Here’s another guest editorial from our friends over at Lightism. Always entertaining and interesting, often controversial, Simon Ellingworth shares with us his theories of Advanced Composition.

There is a mathematical code which some say proves the existence of God, it describes beauty, is repeatedly found nature, art, even DNA, and can be traced back to the beginning of time…all I know is it can help you take better photographs…regardless of what camera, smart phone or tablet you use.

If God was a photographer - the Devine Proportion @ www.Lightism.co.uk

So, if you’ve read anything about photography you will no doubt have come across the rule of thirds as demonstrated by the picture Cheesy Mouse below. [more info here]

Cheesy Mouse

For a series of complex reasons, areas of importance in a picture are best placed where the lines intersect and most cameras and apps can provide you with an on screen grid to help your composition. It’s a great starting place to help you take better pictures, but it’s really only a dumbed down version of composition for photographers.

A Bit of History

The golden ratio can be seen in artwork as early as 300 b.c, and in the 16th century it was dubbed the divine proportion. It is a mathematical formula called PHI and crops up in an extraordinarily diverse range of nature, artwork and design (from the Mona Lisa to the Great Pyramids) and has fascinated some of the greatest thinkers of our time. If you want to discover more, then The Golden Ratio: The story of PHI, the World’s most Astonishing Number is a fascinating read, or if you’ve only got 3 minutes and are a visual learner, then watch this.

Essentially, scientists have proven that when you read a picture, your brain is looking for the presence of the Golden ration as it defines beauty.

For our purposes and to keep it simple, we are going to look at the Golden Spiral, as it is about placement and flow; helping guide the viewer’s eye and deliver satisfaction.

If God was a photographer - the Devine Proportion @ Lightism.co.

The Spiral is the natural path your follows as your brain tries to make sense of what it is viewing (like listening to a joke) and by placing the focal point at the end of the spiral you are delivering the punch line.

So, by understanding this, your compositions can deliver more impact and you’ll produce more successful pictures.
If God was a photographer - the Devine Proportion @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Try this:

Look for the spiral when composing: Anyone who has a smart phone or tablet can download a camera app which has a composition grid showing the spiral. DSLR users can use this to train their eye or in the short term in addition to their cameras.

Although several apps have the ability to use a golden spiral overlay, so far, only the two listed below allow you to change the orientation of the spiral, without which it’s pretty useless really.

IOS – Sense Cam
Android – Camera Sensor

Look for the spiral

Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom users can select the golden spiral view in the crop tool and can change the orientation of it with [shift] + O.  You will need to click on the images before you can change the orientation.

More on Simon and Lightism

Lightism is about one thing: helping you take better pictures with your smart phone, Iphone, Ipad, compact camera, GoPro or whatever you have, because regardless of the camera, the principles of Lightism remain the same.

Simon Ellingworth is a Professional Photographer and author of Lightism; an educational blog and forthcoming book based upon the premise “buying a better camera won’t make you a better photographer”

His work was featured in ‘Mobile Photography Awards’, last year he was runner up in ‘Professional Photographer of the Year’ & ‘Sony World Photography Awards’.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Interesting

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