The Golden Spiral: Step Your Photography Composition Game

Careful composition for a cognac ad using the Golden Spiral
When it comes to photography composition, the Golden Spiral is an aesthetically pleasing but often overlooked alternative to the commonly used Rule of Thirds.

When it comes to photography composition, the “Rule of Thirds” is the first rule to come to mind for most photographers. It’s a tried and true method that guarantees visually pleasing results. However, it’s not the be-all end-all when it comes to composition rules. To quote Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back, “There is another.” In our latest infographic, we will be covering one such alternative: the Golden Spiral. Sometimes referred to as the Golden Ratio or the Golden Proportion, it’s another effective compositional tool that can help create truly engaging images. It even went by the “Divine Proportion” moniker during the Renaissance. Let’s check it out.

Why the Golden Spiral?

One of the reasons the Golden Spiral is such an effective compositional tool is its prevalence in nature. Organic examples of the Golden Spirals can be found throughout the natural world. Nautilus shells, sunflowers, and pine cones are a handful of readily recognizable examples. Many people find images composed utilizing the Golden Spiral to have an organic and aesthetically pleasing quality to them.

In Use for Many Years

Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael (the Renaissance artists, not the Ninja Turtles) are just some examples of artists who have incorporated the Golden Spiral into their work. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is perhaps one of the most recognizable examples in art history. Without diving into the math behind the Golden Spiral (we’ll let the 13th Century Italian Mathematician Fibonacci field that one), images composed using this method just looks right. If it was good enough for the Renaissance masters, it’s surely good enough for us.

Find It in Post-Production

RAW processing programs like Capture One and Adobe Lightroom have the ability to overlay the Golden Spiral onto your images. This is very helpful when cropping your images in post. We wish more camera manufacturers would include this overlay as an option in their screens and viewfinders though.

Leading the Eyes

The reason why composition matters in the first place is because it allows photographers to direct where the audience focuses. Thanks to its pervasiveness in nature, composing images using this method as a guide helps achieve this in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

We’ve covered the Golden Spiral previously in even greater detail. If you’re only just learning about this composition method, it’s well worth the read. Also, consider checking out these Five Tips for Effective Composition.

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Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.