better photography: the golden third

IMG_3989 The secret to taking great photography begins before you raise the camera to your eye.  Here's a quick tip to try that will increase the interest and movement of your photography.


The golden third has been used throughout the history of time in art and architecture.   Its roots are in the Phi ratio. (Read more about how the golden ratio, as it is also called, is found in our DNA and in the solar system here.)

When I was only a little bit older than Caroline (my 5 year old), my artist dad introduced me to the meaning of the "golden third."  I remember being by his side as a child and him helping me use the golden third as I drew the objects in front of me.

What is the golden third?

If you were to divide a photo into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, you would found your golden third right where the vertical and horizontal third meet.  The whole idea of photographing your subject using the golden third adds variety and interest and is easy on the eye much more than photographing your subject dead center.

The best part of photographing using the golden third is the movement it creates visually.   Take the photo above for example.  Your eye works up from her shadowed footprints to her, the focal point of the photo.  I believe it is easier to visually comprehend that which is off center, on that golden third.

The first photo of Annabelle has Annabelle right on a vertical third and horizontal third.  It doesn't always have to be exactly on a third, but in the vicinity.  Because of that, your eye flows naturally to her from the shadow of the trees.

Use the following photos to decide where the golden third is.  Decide where your eye naturally goes and how it gets there.  I'll give you some clues based on what I see.


The red spider's body is the focal point.  The diagonal books move your eye up to the spider's legs and finally to the red spider's body.



There is some competition in this photo of the focal point.  For me, the pumpkin leads you to the girl's arm and up to her face, the intended focal point.


The white flowers are the focal point. The tree branches move your eye to the white flowers and the pomegranates secure your eyes with their weight and color by ending the movement right where they sit.




Caroline is the focal point here.  All of the diagonals in the shot create a great sense of movement and action, all focusing on her.

Try this:

Grab your camera and try taking photos of things around your house or your family.  Once you decide on what you want as the focal point, bring the camera to your eye.  Through the view finder put that focal point on any of the thirds, vertical or horizontal.  Decide if it creates the movement and interest you want.  Take the photo.

Once you can pull up the photos on your computer, practice analysing the photo and where your eye moves across the photo.  You can control the movement and flow of your photos now!  And using the golden third is one of the funnest ways.

Add some of your "golden third" photos to the Flickr group. I'd love to see what you try out!

the sleepy time gal