‘Selfies’ Reveal Systematic Deviations from Known Principles of Photographic Composition

In: Art & Perception
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  • 1 Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Parma, Italy
  • 2 Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK

We used ‘selfies’, self-portraits taken with a hand-held smartphone camera, to test three known principles of photographic composition: The rule of thirds, the golden ratio rule, and the eye centering principle. Although they are often taught and discussed, the origin of these principles remains unclear. It is possible that they stem from constraints on human perceptual processes. Alternatively, these principles might serve more practical purposes, such as forcing photographers to explore all quadrants of the image. Selfies provide an ideal test bed for these questions due to the control they give self-photographers when they compose the photograph. We used a database of images created by non-professional photographers (N=388). After analysis, we conclude that there little support for any of the three principles, suggesting that none is strongly rooted in spontaneous perceptual preferences.

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