Last week we talked about the rule of thirds and how it can provide placement of the subject within the frame. The Golden Rectangle is an even earlier compositional rule that came from the Ancient Greeks. It is based on a geometrical progression called the Fibonacci series.
The Fibonacci series starts with 0 and 1. The series progresses by adding the last two numbers to create the next number. By extrapolating out, series becomes 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13, etc. What is interesting about the Fibonacci series is that if you take the ratio of any two sequential numbers in this series (ignoring the first ratio of 1/0 which can’t exist), they will always approach 1.618. This ratio is called Phi – not to be confused by the better know Pi which is something else all together. The Greeks used the Fibonacci series in much of their architecture to build arches and rectangle. Eventually the Golden Rectangle evolved and from that came the Rule of Thirds.
Building a Golden Rectangle
To build the box bigger, take the long edge and add it to the short edge. This will give you a rectangle with a ratio of 2/3, which exactly follows the Fibonacci series. to make the new rectangle even bigger, once again take the long edge and add it to the short end. This will give you a ratio of 5/3, the next ratio in the Fibonacci series. Continuing to add more boxes in the same fashion, you will build a bigger rectangle, but it will always have the same relationship to Phi, regardless of how big you make it.
From the Golden Rectangle came the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is a way of finding the impact spot in a Phi based rectangle without having to draw out the boxes. To determine the Golden Mean, and hence the highest impact point, draw a straight line from one corner to its opposite corner. The draw another line at right angles from the line you just drew up to an adjacent corner. Where the two lines meet is the same place as the smallest box will be. This is your Golden Mean. Like the rule of thirds, you can create 4 impact points or “nodal points” in your image.