The Golden Ratio

What is the Golden Ratio?  Putting it as simply as we can, the Golden Ratio (also known as the Golden Section, Golden Mean, Divine Proportion or Greek letter Phi) exists when a line is divided into two parts and the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.  Whew !!!

The Greeks discovered that there was a ratio of length to height that they considered to be aesthetically pleasing. This is the 1.618 : 1, and this makes a print that is roughly 13 x 8.   What’s magical about this?  Well, it has unusual mathematical properties, which the Greeks claimed were divinely inspired, and therefore the best…. and this particular rectangle is the basic shape of all Greek architecture – including the Parthenon.

If you take the Golden Rectangle, and cut off a square, the shape that is left, is also a Golden Rectangle.  Cut off another square, and you are again left with the Golden Rectangle… ad infinitum.  If you do this repeatedly, you will end up with a spiral of rectangles, and if you then draw a line through these, you will end up with a perfect logarithmic spiral.

The Golden mean was studied at length by the mathematician Fibonacci, who discovered the set of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence. The series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, … The next number is found by adding up the two before it.

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As a photographer we need to understand the simplicity of this, and how it can affect our images.  What makes something look ‘good’ without you always being aware of the why…..

In my last post, I showed a portrait, and I’ll show this again with the Golden Triangle superimposed on top.

Screenshot 2019-05-21 11.00.05

There is some magic in the Golden Mean – it’s worthy of study, if you are so inclined, and fascinated by such things (as I am)…

You can find these crop overlays by the way, in Lightroom.  Click on the crop tool, and then repeatedly press the ‘O’ key and different crop layouts will cycle round.  From the 1/3 grid, to the Golden Spiral, and through to the Golden Rectangle…..

Enjoy…..

Author: Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* - D Seddon Photography

I am a retired freelance photographer, based in Louth, Lincolnshire.

4 thoughts on “The Golden Ratio”

    1. How refreshing to see such a clear and simple explanation. I get seriously irritated by the way people dismiss this relationship as being unimportant, or assume that the rule of thirds(which is a simplification of the Golden Section) is an adequate substitute.

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      1. Thank you for that – I think it’s crucial that we understand how it works. I always feel that you need to know the rules before you can start to ignore them. You are then being creative with a good knowledgable background….

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