Photography marketing

Product photography, part 9: Advanced composition

I discussed in my previous article two composition rules that could make your product photography more appealing. I will expand on this topic in this article.

This is the ninth installment in my series to help online marketers take better product images. “Part 1” discussed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained the tripods. “Part 3” looked at artificial lighting. “Part 4” looked at angles and views, and “Part 5” looked at choosing a camera. “Part 6” evaluated lenses and their importance. “Part 7” focused on magnification and close-ups, and “Part 8” introduced the basics of composition.

In this article, I’ll go over three advanced composition strategies: the golden ratio, the golden triangle, and dynamic diagonals.

Gold number

The golden ratio, also known as the Fibonacci spiral, is a compositional design rule based on the principles of a 13th-century Italian mathematician, Leonardo of Pisa (later known as Fibonacci). The famous Fibonacci sequence is that each number is the sum of the previous two – 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. Applying this sequence to photography and design creates aesthetic layouts.

Applying the golden ratio to photography creates aesthetic layouts. This example shows the progression of squares and arcs inside the squares, which simulates the way humans see images. Source: PhotographyHero.com.

Imagine a series of adjacent squares in the frame of your camera. The length of the first and second square is the same. The length of the third square is the sum of the first two. Placing an arc in each square, connecting the opposite corners, represents a natural path of how human eyes see an object. The distance from the arc of each square would be 1.618 times the length of the square. This is called the golden ratio: 1.618. It is a natural path that draws our attention around the photo and ultimately to the focal point of the image.

The composition of this image follows the golden ratio, with the surfboard at the end of the spiral.  Source: Fotowoosh.com.

The composition of this image follows the golden ratio, with the surfboard at the end of the spiral. Source: Fotowoosh.com.

Applying the golden ratio to product photography, place your item at the end of the spiral (like the surfboard above). Then place all of the supporting elements in the large arch as it comes out of the focal point. Anything of support that is not part of the arc would distract viewers’ attention and lead to an unsatisfactory picture.

Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is another advanced composition rule that divides the photo frame into triangular sections whose focal point is the intersection of the lines. It’s similar to the rule of thirds in my previous article.

Golden Triangle Composition Rule Diagram, from CraftProfessional.com

The Golden Triangle rule divides the photo frame into triangular sections whose focal point is the intersection of the lines. Source: CraftProfessional.com

Placing your product along these axes will enhance the focal point of the image and make it more attractive. Unlike the rule of thirds, however, the golden triangle focuses on adding a strong diagonal element with guiding lines that draw the human eye to the focal point of the image.

The Golden Triangle is more difficult than the Rule of Thirds. But look carefully at the product announcements. You will likely see the Golden Triangle applied frequently.

To experiment, divide your frame into two diagonal sections along an imaginary line connecting the opposite corners. Next, draw two diagonal lines from the unused corners to intersect the original line at a 90 degree angle. Place your product at the intersection of the lines and keep the supporting elements of the photo in the same triangle. It is a simple and effective method of creating an attractive product image.

Creativelysquared photo of food on a table apply the Golden Triangle rule

The Golden Triangle adds a diagonal element with lines that draw the human eye to the focal point. Source: CreativelySquared.com.

Dynamic diagonals

The dynamic diagonal composition is relatively easy. You are probably doing it unconsciously. The rule is to place the essential elements of a photo diagonally. The lines in a product photo are the best way to draw the viewer’s attention to the item. The supporting elements in the photo should lead to the product, the focal point.

Following this rule is simple. Look at your frame, place your product, and build your support elements around your product along diagonal lines. Note the example below. Plants and rocks lead our gaze to the product (face powder).

ExpertPhotography.com photo sample highlighting face powder with supporting plants and rocks.

Dynamic Diagonal Composition places the essential elements of a photo along diagonal lines. In this example, the plants and rocks lead our gaze to the product (face powder). Source: ExpertPhotography.com.

See “Part 10: Lines as design elements”.