Composition Guides in Lightroom

Last week I read an article by photographer Jake Garn called The Lazy Rule of Thirds.  Instead of re-hashing the article I will let you read the whole thing at Jake’s blog but the quick and dirty was this; using the rule of thirds for composition is perhaps inferior to using something called a Fibonacci Spiral.  This is also sometimes referred to as the Golden Mean or Golden Spiral.  It is based on mathematical formulas, which provide order to much of the galaxy (seriously, I’m not making this up).

Fibonacci Spiral

Fibonacci Spiral

Anyway, what I noticed from many of the comments after the article were wishing for Adobe to recognize this composition pattern and utilize it in Lightroom for the purposes of cropping.  Here’s the thing, they already have!  Most folks who use Lightroom don’t know that there are numerous choices available in the crop tool beyond the simple Rule of Thirds (referred to as Thirds).  In fact, there are 5 additional crop guides which include Grid, Triangle, Diagonal, Golden Ratio, and the Golden Spiral.

Golden Spiral Crop Guide

Golden Spiral Crop Guide

To select a different overlay (the Thirds is the default) go to the Develop Module and then select the Crop tool. While the tool is active, click on View on the top menu bar and then go down to Crop Guide Overlay. You can also cycle through the crop guides while the crop is active by pressing the letter O on the keyboard (not zero).

Changing the crop overlay in the menu

Changing the crop overlay in the menu

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  • Craig Lee

    Thanks for that tip. I have certainly read about the Golden Spiral, the Golden Mean, etc. in composition guides. However, I always found it hard to apply them to photography without an overlay like this. The Rule of Thirds is certainly easier to include in software, but I have wanted to try some of the other concepts like the Spiral too. Now I can!

    Oh, and a follow-on tip. You can change the orientation of the overlay by pressing Shift+O to place the spiral where you need it in the frame. I.e. the “Cycle Grid Over Orientation” menu item in your screen shot above.

  • Jake Garn

    What great follow up information to my post! Thanks! :-)

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  • David Cuerdon

    Wow! I made a Golden Spiral custom shape I made in Photoshop, but I never knew that was there in Lightroom!!!
    What a great and helpful tip my friend!

    P.S. Congrats again on the new book!

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  • Curtis Copeland

    WOW! How many hours have I spent in Light room and didn’t know about this????? If I had only known…. Goes to show one must never stop learning! Thanks for the great insight!

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  • Yucel

    Still learning lightroom and do not have latest version.

    Got any info on a feature like this for Photoshop CS5?

    For a links to 12 video compositional guides for photography, see list here:

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  • Kenneth Chan

    Golden Ratio/Spiral in Lightroom, where have you been all my life?

    Thanks for the tip. Will start using this immediately. =]

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  • Luke

    I have known about the golden spiral crop overlay for a while now but what I would like to know is if there is a way to rotate the grid so for example if the photo is horizontal is there a way to take the spiral from the left side and flip it to the right?

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