Why Does “Bad” Composition Work?

The rule of thirds is a common framing technique used in photography and cinematography and likely one of the first lessons most photographers learn. This method brings balance and natural appearance to the composition, often resulting in a crisp, appealing image. But Brain Flick has some different views on the rule of thirds and how it can be abandoned in situations that no longer require it. They challenge the idea that the rule of thirds is the go-to method for beautiful photography and cinematography by pointing out that research doesn’t fully support it:

The golden ratio is found a lot in nature and has been used in art for centuries, dating back to the B.C. timeline. It naturally occurs in the spiral arrangement of leaves amongst other things, leading to this general consensus: if we’re used to seeing the golden ratio applied to things that we consider beautiful, then the rule of thirds will be attractive because it is a similar standard. Therefore, it also leads to humans thinking the rule of thirds is necessary to have a beautifully framed image. However, a sample of research shows that the rule of thirds might not be as important for evaluating the visual quality as previously assumed.

golden ratio photography

As an example, the television show Mr. Robot uses unconventional framing techniques to demonstrate going against the grain while filming each episode. The important thing to remember is that the rule of thirds is a strong place to start learning about photography and how to frame your image. However, after gaining adequate experience, a photographer should feel inclined to experiment with framing to achieve three different key points.

focus perspective focal point

1. Create an emotional investment in the photograph.

Draw the viewer in and mesmerize them, whether it is with emotion, question, or just simple adoration.

2. Find a balance in your work that displays just how well your framing lessons paid off.

Now that the rule of thirds is all of a sudden on the back burner doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come back to it. Excessive skewed framing can appear distorted and without significant meaning.

3. Your method of framing and positioning your subject opens up a world of possibilities to get your message across.

The different perspectives and focal points throughout these shots offer numerous messages, whether they are intentional or subliminal. The audience wants to have its own interpretation of your work and always will. Still, your influence on the crowd’s reaction comes from more than the photo’s material.

“What matters is not only that Ancient Greek temples exhibit similar geometric golden ratios, but also the context of their form in relation to Greek and human culture, the meaning and significance to the observer.”

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