Odd numbers

This rule is rather self explanatory, that having an odd number of subjects in a composition: 3,5,7 etc. will be visually more interesting, exciting even, than having an even number: 2, 4, 6, etc.

The brain loves organising and having an odd number means that the eye focuses in on the middle subject rather than the empty negative space between two equal groups.

In its simplest form a group of three will always form either a straight line or a triangle, both considered to be aesthetically pleasing shapes.

It also has parallels in religion: the holy trinity, in literature where lists of three are more efficient in supporting the weight of an argument, and even in joke telling: an Englishman, an Irishmen and a Scotsman all walked into a bar . . .

A pair implies a dullness, whereas the addition of a third subject adds a certain dynamic, as in the expression: “two is company, three is a crowd”

Obviously the rule of odds starts to lose efficiency with an increasing number of subjects as the brain slowly starts having difficulty recognising the numbers in a group, so try to keep it simple.

Some examples illustrating the technique

Tips for when on location

  • The rule is most effective when the objects are all the same type, something has to visually link them all together: colour, shape, form, etc.
  • Start by looking for groups of three and then progress to larger numbers when you have more confidence.
  • But remember, the rule actually starts to lose its effectiveness with increasingly high numbers, so don’t go crazy with it.

© Andrew James Kirkwood – 2017

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