Composition In Portraiture
Let’s start with the Fibonacci Sequence 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144
The Fibonacci sequence is the set of numbers aquired when one takes first the numbers 0 and 1 and adds them to get 1, and from that point on adds the the last two numbers of the series to get the next number in the series.
THE MAGIC RATIO
The ancient greeks somewhere knew about this certain ratio which had interesting properties. They defined it by taking a line segment, and dividing it into two parts, in such a way that the ratio of the larger portion to the original segment is the same as the ratio of the smaller segment to the larger. This ratio is 1.618 (give or take a few decimal places). If we look at the fibonacci sequence and divide the current result with the previous result, as we progress in the sequence, we can see that the answer quickly approaches the magic ratio.
- 2 / 1 = 2
- 3 / 2 = 1.5
- 5 / 3 = 1.66
- 8 / 5 = 1.6
- 89 / 55 = 1.618
- 144 / 89 = 1.6179 etc.
Right.. so enough of the maths.
WHY DO WE CARE?
Well the magic ratio is a naturally ocurring number which was used in many places in the ancient world, including Da Vinci’s art to the great pyramids. Indeed even in todays modern world, clever marketing people use the magic ratio to lure people in (measure the ratio of the length of a credit card to the height of a credit card for instance).
So my first tip, is to crop pictures/portraits to 1:1.618
COMPOSITIONAL “HOT SPOTS”
Before you ask, I do know that the magic ratio violates normal printing ratio standards, but just try it and see. But there’s more to it than that. Next, let’s take a rectangle which obeys the magic ratio, and draw a line from one corner to the opposite adjacent corner. Now draw two different lines, from each of the remaining corners, at 45 degrees until the intersect the other diagonal. This will create two “hotspots”
Our eyes, dont only find the magic ratio crop natually appealing, but we’re also naturally drawn to these two points as points of interest. So if we’re doing a portrait and can put the subjects eyes in these spots, we’ll create a portrait that is naturally appealing to the eye
So my second tip is to frame a picture so as to ensure the subjects eyes fall on, or as close to a natural “hotspot” as possible.
FIBONACCI “HOT SPOTS”
Back to the Fibonnaci sequence…
The Fibonacci sequence, can be applied to a spiral structure (read more on it here). The resulting spiral can be seen below.
The spiral, appears naturally in nature in things like seashells, petals etc. As well as the spiral itself, we can see key intersection points, which again are hotspots which our eyes are drawn to. So by framing a photo where we place eyes close to or on these hotspots, again we create visually appealing portraits
So my third tip is to frame a picture so as to ensure the subjects eyes fall on, or as close to a natural “hotspot” on the fibonacci spiral
Finally, if we superimpose both diagrams over each other, we can see both the spiral and the golden mean share the same hotspot. Hopefully I’ve already shown that placing a subjects eyes on these hotspots leads to a pleasing portratit. But there’s one other thing we can try and do and that is to create a curve in the shot that follows the fibonacci spiral. Jawlines, hair, arms, backs.. can all be used to create the curve. In this last example I have framed the photograph so as the models hair and jaw line run parallel with the spiral.
So my final tip is to try and create a curve in your portraits using hands/jaws/hair that will run parallel with the fibonacci spiral