The Rule of Odds in Street Photography

I hate using the word ‘rule’ because it isn’t. As with the ‘rule of thirds’, the ‘rule of odds’ doesn’t have to be used and might not even make a better image. It’s really a guide to a pattern that the human eye generally finds visually pleasing. Relating partially to symmetry and balance, it means that we generally find odd numbers of objects in an image more pleasing than even numbers. It's as simple as that but not always so simple to achieve on the streets.

During the 24 hour project last weekend I took this image of the Turban Day celebrations and world record attempt in Times Square:


I like it but there's too much going on for my taste. It's complicated, which isn't necessarily a bad thing and the faces are (mostly) nicely separated. There's still a clear main subject. There are some nice expressions but it's a very busy image. 

Then I took these:


The first has three main figures, with two 'supporting actors'. The others all have three faces. There's a balance that I don't think would work as well with only two characters.

This isn't something you can necessarily plan for. I wasn't counting as I photographed, just responding instinctively to the people and activities. But it's interesting to dwell on what works and what doesn't, and understand a little of why.

(If you want to learn more, Henri Cartier-Bresson was a master as Ted Forbes explains in his excellent composition series here on YouTube.)