Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds


Lesson Info

Golden Triangles

Next we're gonna take a look at the golden triangles. Golden rule number two, and this is quite a bit more dynamic than the rule of thirds, 'cause what it does is it utilizes a very strong compositional diagonal line across the image. That's the first step. So, what we're gonna do is take that big line and that divides the image in half from corner to corner. We then take a secondary line and we go into the other corners and we can either use one or both, you don't have to use both. And that helps to extend the eye more than that just one singular move. So the diagonal composition is very dynamic, but we're taking it one step further and we're putting something in the corner to draw the eye or we're leading the eye into one of the other corners. It fills the frame more successfully and gives us a little bit more thought to how we're communicating visually. Now the strongest line is called a major line and these smaller lines are called reciprocal lines. And this kinda comes at a perpen...

dicular angle, meaning it's a right angle right off that major line. And again, these are golden, each of the triangles is the same ratio to the other triangles and it looks like this. Major line is the big one and the reciprocal lines are the other ones. Again, you only need one but you can do both if you want. It kind of looks like a really stupid envelope. So the triangles all have the same ratios, these are known as golden. And as a pose to the rule of thirds, the golden triangles works really well with perspective, things disappearing into the distance, architectural elements, and even making the subject fill the entire frame. When you're posing people, it works really well 'cause if you take a look at posing, generally you don't want to make people feel very rigid. If it bends, you want to bend it, right? And so, you can actually use those bends to create these lines to draw the eye around the frame. We're using the same ideas both in posing the body and posing a scene. And lastly just to refresh everyone, putting elements of composition on a diagonal plane gives them a more dynamic presence. Okay, strong line from corner to corner and then we're drawn into the other corner. And yes I understand that there are other lines in the scene, but again, it's about a guy. We have curved lines so it's a little bit prettier but those are the same general ways very basically that our eyes are directed through the scene. And this is architectural, also perspective. But I also think it's important to remember that gesture and pose can be a terrific way to define the composition. And so, there we go. Beautiful ways to use the pose to define composition. That knee works really well and I really especially love the one on the right. Here's another one, okay? And these actually illustrate three different ideas. So the top-left one, that's a little bit more physical. We have the pose, we can see that strong line diagonally and the knee comes up. That one's easy, right? Then we start getting into the implied lines down here. So on the bottom-left image, we have the strong diagonal, we're led diagonally, but we use the fire as a compositional element to draw our eye upward and into the corner. Helps fill the frame. Lastly, over on the right-hand side, we connect the hands to the face. That creates the line and if we take it one step further, which you can see it a little bit more clearly without the compositional guide, the cloud behind him is bright which draws our eye, it's the brightest part of the sky, so our eye is drawn in that continuous diagonal line. Over on the left-hand side, top-left corner, we use the perspective of the building to create a downward-implied line to the face. Similar to how we saw it in the one-point perspective in the Last Supper. Draws the eye inward. Okay, so we can utilize all of these different ways in which we can create connections between the objects to effectively tell the viewer where we want to look. The fire example was about context, so that was for a handbag designer named Cella New York. And she wanted to do something around fire as a fire theme for the campaign, and so we incorporated fire and smoke into the images, and so that's how we tie in concept and stuff into the composition and execution.

You know the basics of composition – now take it to the next level. Good composition is more than following a strict set of rules and guidelines. In fact, those very things can stifle your creativity and make your work fade into the pack of other photographers. In this class, Chris Knight shows you that there is more to composition than a few lines – it’s about creating balance in an image. He’ll introduce the Gestalt Principle and encourage you to look beyond the rule of thirds and utilize contrast, leading lines and more for interesting and dynamic images.



  • I have to say, perhaps if you are an academic or a college trained photographer/artist/painter etc., this may be old hat to you. However, if you are like me and have never been exposed to definitions and descriptions of composition, this was a shock-and-awe inspiring reveal of these artistic concepts. I can guarantee I will watch these over and over again while I try to absorb even a little of this material, but Creative Live could make an all day class of this guy explaining this material. material he quite obviously loves and uses and his passion for the subject matter is very obvious. This class is making me consider a trip back to the campus to get more information on this subject. Quick, contract Chris Knight to develop a whole class before I end up in college!!! Highly recommend this class.
  • What a FANTASTIC presentation! I loved it. Best instruction I have ever seen/read as a graphic designer for 33 years. I majored in art and graphic communications in college before becoming a designer. Well done Chris. Definitely buying the class.
  • Excellent information. I would have liked a little more examples in some of the composition rules, but I liked the content. Recommended for some one who is beggining or needs to reinforce composition