Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting the viewer to see what you see

Hi there been off one extra week because this post actually took longer than I though it would, so lets get started. One of the challenges of photography is getting the view to see what you see. No two people see the world in the same way and if you are not there to explain your image to a person seeing it , then how do you achieve this? How do you get the viewer to see what you see and the way you see it.

Thankfully we have mathematics at our disposal to help us do this. Don't frown, its really simple. You don't need to be a maths and physics wizard to nail a great shot. As you keep taking pictures with these mathematics rules in mine you will develop an eye for this . In fact in some time you'll start doing it at a subconsciousness level.

So how do we get the viewer to see what we see. One of the easiest and most powerful ways is  by using "The rule of Thirds". Its not actually a rule but more of an observation of life around us. The rule is derived from the Fibonacci number which was given to us by man named Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (AKA Leonardo Fibonacci). The number is approximately 1.618. This is the most common ratio found in everyday life. Its found everywhere in nature. The number of petals of a flower, the honeycomb grid, a shell, the ratio of our body parts, you get the point!!!

Rule of Thirds/The Grid
This number also gives us a the golden rectangle and the golden mean. More on that later. Now let's say we divide  a rectangle into thirds vertically and horizontally like the grid given on the left. Your eye will gravitate naturally to one of the four intersection points. Some scientist say we tend to gravitate to the top left corner then down corner first. [ While scientist are trying to figure it out why some reasoning given include the way we read and write - lift to right and from the top. Though that argument does not hold true if you write in Japanese which is written top to bottom or Urdu or Hebrew which is from left to right. What ever the case, this does tend to happen. Don't take my word for it, draw on your personal experiences and if it works then lets use it]

Now you don't need to nail the rule of thirds perfectly. Even if you get close the image is compelling. So if you photograph a landscape then try and put the horizon either on the top or bottom thirds. 

When you put the horizon on the thirds line you are picking what is more important in the scene. You tell the viewer the sky is more important if there is more sky in the image and if there is more land in the image you are telling the viewer the land is more important. If you put the horizon in the middle which a lot of photographers do when they start out, it suggest that you are not sure which part of the photo is more important. If you look at the image on the left - the horizon is on the top third the viewers attention is drawn to the log at the bottom. You see the colours of the in the sky but the log is the more significant part of the image and that is what I want you to see. 

A bit about the golden rectangle. Its the perfect rectangle, not too big that it becomes an elongated rectangle, not to small that it looks like a square, just right. This rectangle was used by the Egyptians to make their buildings and many painters used this dimension of canvas to make their painting on. Here is something interesting about the rectangle, if you divide a third into another third and then divide that small third further into a third it will look something like the image on the left. You can see that we are able to divide the third into smaller thirds and fits perfectly. Now comes something really interesting part. If you join the corners of the boxes with arches what you will get a spiral and it will look something like the image below. 

This is a pattern very pleasing to the eyes. You can pose people with this in mind, you can photograph these patterns to make interesting images, like stair cases or shells the list goes on for now let's get back to "the rule of thirds". Now that you know about the perfect rectangle you can use it to your advantage and crop your image to this ratio. This means you will need to think of this dimension before you take the image. Why you may ask? The dimensions of the photos which come out of your camera are in the ratio of the sensor. [RTM to know the dimensions of the sensor] The ratio of the sensor is unfortunately not in golden ratio so you need to crop the image to conform to this golden rectangle ratio. Now just remember, this is just a guide, not a rule. You don't have to do this. You can crop in any dimension you like and there are other things which impact the image. If the image works without conforming to this go ahead and do it. You might want to consider cropping or composing with this in mind this if you were making images for displaying in an art gallery and you want to create that perfect image. Add to that you have all the time in the world then yes you should consider this. 

Here is an example of the rule of thirds. Take at the two images below. The eyes are on the thirds. I have not got the rule nailed perfectly that the eyes fall exactly on the intersection but it still works. You just need to get close.

If you know where the rule of thirds falls when you look through the view finder you can build upon it. This will help you tell stories through your images. You might want to create a dizzying image and put significant things on all four intersections or you might want to tell a simpler story. These are just guides. Like I said in an earlier post. If you are starting out in the world of photography just put the subject on any of the four interactions and you will create compelling images. As you get more advanced you can start bending the rules and depending on the situation, even break it to create a dramatic impact.

Here are some really amazing resources on the rule of thirds. Do check them out.

Rule of Thirds by Darren Rowse.

The Golden Section explained by By Bryan Peterson

Divine Composition With Fibonacci’s Ratio (The Rule of Thirds on Steroids)
by James Brandon
The Lazy Rule of Thirds by Jake Garn