Rule of Thirds, and the “Armature”

Most photographers know about the Rule of Thirds. But recently this post on showed me that it’s just a simplification of something more complicated called an “armature”.

The elevator pitch for the armature is this: draw a “golden rectangle” with a ratio of 1:1.62; find the midpoints of the sides; draw lines connecting all the corners and midpoints. The intersections of those lines are the magic points where you want the important things in your photo.

And that’s just a start; there are any number of significant visual relationships encoded in that network of lines. For example, the two big corner-to-corner diagonals are called the “Baroque” and the “Sinister”. No, really. Aligning the important things in your image with one or the other of these lines strengthens the composition. And if you squint your eyes you may see a “Fibonacci Spiral” passing through some of those intersection points.

Photography, composition, rule of thirds, armature

The Fstoppers post says armatures are really big: ” For centuries, painters and artists alike have used this grid and other compositional techniques to create their masterpieces.”

So here is an armature:

Photography, composition, rule of thirds, armature

And here is a photo I took recently. I saw an interesting scene, tried framing it this way and that, and ended up with this.

Photography, composition, rule of thirds, armature
A Minneapolis skyway

At first glance it looks like I totally missed the boat on this armature thing and just created a jumble. Or did I? There are so many lines in the armature that a complex subject is sure to connect a few magic dots. l like the photo and think it’s interesting, but maybe I could go back and do better. Wouldn’t it be great if cameras could overlay an armature on the image in the viewfinder? Or maybe that would just drive us all nuts…

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