Before I do any primary research, I will conduct a small test using two popular web 2.0 sites. The first site, is Facebook. I am using this site as a representation of the views of amateur photographers, taking photos from friends who I know aren’t professional photographers.. The next site I will look at will be Flickr – a primary base for so many amateur and professional photographers.
How will I do it?
1) First step is to find a constant, something that will be the same for every result. I’ll use a black template of the golden ratio – easy!
2) Applying the template to the image. This involves layering the template over the image. This is where we fall upon our first problem. The template for the golden ratio will work in four places on an image (top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right). So we have to adapt the template for each and every image. Hint: Roll your mouse over the image to preview the correct position of the template for this image.
3) Next, we have to mark where the point of interest (POI) is. This aspect can be quite subjective as I have to enforce my knowledge of photography and judge where I think the point is. For example I have placed the POI on the tip of the plane’s propeller (signified by the white spot in figure 2)
4) Step four is a little laborious. Basically repeating the process for each photograph so you end up with the golden ratio template what looks similar to figure 3. Note, the blue dot is the POI from the above photograph (Fig 2).
What we are left with is a golden ratio with quantifiable results. The dots that are closer to the spiral end are said to be more aesthetically pleasing.
So, on to Facebook. As I have already explained these photographs were from friends who have had no professional experience of photography and would not class themselves as “photographers”. The photographs will be randomly selected.
Flickr is up next. For this test I used Flickr’s “Interestingness” page from September 2010.
This page presents the best photos in terms of number of views, number of comments, number of favourites etc. per day. So it represents what people find interesting. I would class the photographers who took these images as having a reasonable knowledge of photography.
So, what does this all mean? Well if you compare the two results directly you’ll see that more Flickr photos were closer to the bullseye than my Facebook friends.
On the Flickr site, a number of anomalies do exist with some points out in no man’s land. However, the tighter the spiral gets the more congested the points are. What this tells me is that within professional Flickr photography the Golden Ratio is certainly at work. One explanation for the anomalies may come from a photographic convention that says “rules are there to be broken”. So with the knowledge of the Golden Ratio, photographers set out to break it.. Rebels!.
Facebook results show less willingness to congregate towards the centre of the spiral. This could be down to a number of factors. One, this could purely mean that most snapshot photographers don’t take on board the Golden Ratio that is around them and use it within their photographs. Two, as I took them off Facebook, without telling the person to take photographs of anything visually pleasing, they could have literally just pointed and clicked without any thought process, conscious or subconscious. I am hoping to eliminate point two when I conduct my own tests as I will be telling them to take photos of visually interesting objects/places and provoke that thought process.
In conclusion this small scale test, shows that well informed photographers do use the Golden Ratio within their work. What is a little more dubious is whether snapshot photographers use the Golden Ratio or not. This one’s still plausible.