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This is one of a series of articles exploring how best to get the most out of your images.


Single Focal Point

The image on the right is a photograph of a display of Wisteria, yet lovely as the blooms are, the photo is busy, flat and uninteresting.

Yet this shot of a single Petunia, (the focal point), with the subject standing out from the background has a much greater dynamism.

This is achieved by using a wide aperture.  

Remember, the closer you are to the subject, the more blurred the background will be.  

The further away the background is, the more blur the background will have.

Also remember, the longer the focal length the shallower the depth of field.  Typically, a combination of all these will produce an image with this sort of background.

Separating the subject from the background

Rule of Thirds.

There is a basic rule called the Rule of Thirds, whereby the frame is divided into three both vertically and horizontally.

Remember from the video link further up the page, when drawing the first square within the rectangle, a line was drawn, splitting the rectangle into two thirds to a third?  This is merely an extension of that.

Cropping the image so the subject occupies either one or two thirds of the frame will enhance the appearance of the photograph.

The image on the right is presented centre frame

Yet by cropping so the subject is placed on the  imaginary line of the cropping overlay gives a more pleasing image.

Always shoot / crop so that there is room for the subject to ‘look’, ‘lean’, ‘face’ into the empty  part of the frame.


Any part of the composition that leads the viewer’s eye into the scene will strengthen the composition of the image.

The shot right, is a simple shot of a walk in the park;  the strong lead-in lines of the path gives a depth to what would otherwise be a boring image.

The diagonal of the of the heather stem not only creates interest, but balances the subject by occupying a third of the frame, diagonally.


In the shot, right, the foreground overlaps the mid-ground, which in turn overlaps the background, leading the eye into the scene.

Before I start quoting the well worn phrases, such as the ‘Rule of thirds’, ‘odd numbers’, and the like, allow  me explore with you the reasons how these aids to composition came about and why they are so important.

In a word, these rules are based on Phi, (pronounced Fee), also known as ‘The Golden Ratio’.

Throughout history, the ratio for length to width of rectangles of 1.61803 39887 49894 84820 has been considered the most pleasing to the eye. This ratio was named the golden ratio by the Greeks. In the world of mathematics, the numeric value is called "phi", named for the Greek sculptor Phidias.

There was an Italian mathematician called Fibonacci, (1175 c - 1250), who observed, in nature, a sequence of numbers occurring that was based on The Golden Ratio. (Do watch the video to the end, it will make sense, (promise),).

Fibonacci noticed that this ratio of numbers evolved in the construction of plants, animals and indeed humans.  

Some 200 years later, during the Renaissance, the artisans of the day, notably Da Vinci, used this ratio in the construction of buildings, music, sculptures and paintings to produce works of art that were pleasing to the eye and ear.  

Dubbed ‘The Divine Proportions’, as this occurred naturally in nature, Da Vinci explored this concept through his art, laying the foundations that we use today.

This ratio, known as the Fibonacci Sequence, has led to a number of overlays available to us, to use when composing our photographs.  See opposite.

By placing the subject within the overlay when cropping will produce a more pleasing composition.