Lighting & Composition Posts

The “Odd Rule”

A little known photographic composition is the “Odd Rule”, so called because it states that an odd number of subjects in a composition (or a single subject surrounded by an even number of supporting subjects) appears more pleasing to the eye than an even number of subjects.

So what is the reasoning behind this whole theory? Well, the human eye is naturally drawn to the center of an image and when on subject is framed by an even number of objects it gives the eye has something to stop and anchor to before going on to scan the rest of the image. With an image with an even number of subjects the brain tends to allow the eye to divide the subjects and therefore the image is viewed not as a whole, but as separate pieces. Odd numbers allow the eye to flow more naturally through the image.

Personally, I find that the rule of odds work best with either one or three subjects, one subject allows the viewer to know exactly where to look and three subjects usually provides a pleasing triangular shape to a composition or allows two supporting objects to frame a singular subject. Using more than 5 subjects just leads to the image being somewhat cluttered.

Of course you may not always be able to apply the “odd rule” to your composition, but then again if you did, your images would become predictable. The “odd rule” is just another composition technique to keep in mind when actively composing your shot. This tip can be applied from everything from still life photos to nature photography, group portraits, and even concert photography.

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