Home Photography Composition Photography Composition Technique – The Feinberg Rule

Photography Composition Technique – The Feinberg Rule

6 min read
Image by Digitalcameranotebook.com

The Feinberg Technique is a guideline for where to crop photos and other 2D visual imagery like paintings, drawings, etc.

It’s used to balance a photo compositions within a set area so that it doesn’t look like it is off-balance or has too much open space (negative space) on one side of the image compared to the other.

Here’s an example of how this technique is applied.

If you look at this composition, you’ll notice a couple of things.

First, there is no alignment to the “Rule of Thirds” grid (the bottle isn’t aligned to the one third grid). Secondly, you’ll notice that the main subject, the bottle, is tilted and off-center. This in itself would normally cause some tension in the image.

With these two details in consideration, you still get the sense that you’re looking at a well-balanced composition that seems to work just fine.

So what is it that makes this photo look like it’s balanced and properly cropped?

Well, it’s actually nothing to do with the main subject at all, but rather everything to do with where the background elements are touching the edge of the photo. Basically, where the image is cropped.

The Feinberg technique measures each point around the edge of the image and then compares the location of those points to the opposite edge. If they match up, you end up with better cropped image.

Let’s look a little more closely to how this works.

If you look at the photo composition to the right, you’ll see where I’ve marked the points at which certain objects touch the edge of the overall image.

Each colored arrow is related to it’s counterpart on the opposite edge of the image. For example, the top purple arrow is almost exactly the same length as the bottom purple arrow. The length of these arrows represents the distance from the image corner to the point where an object touches the edge of the image.

The goal with this Feinberg Technique is to learn how to crop an image or photo so that each point(s) has an equal counterpart (or spacing) on the opposite edge.

An important item to consider here is that the measurement of these points don’t always need to originate from the same edge as it’s counterpart.

For example, the purple arrow is measured from the left edge of the photo. With a different image, you could crop the top from the left and the bottom from the right. You just need to make sure that they are equal in length.

This photo could be tightened up just a bit more than it is – compositionally – but I think you get the point here. When you’re framing your photo’s or cropping them in a photo editor, try to see if you can employ this technique. It’s a very useful technique when you’re not really sure how to crop a more complex photo.

About the Author


Chip Thwing

The Digital Camera Notebook is a diary of my experiences and challenges as I make the switch from film to the world of digital photography.

One Comment

  1. Joe Baraban

    February 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    This “Feinberg Technique” is one that’s new to me. Amazing that after forty-two years I’ve never heard of it.

    It goes to show you that no matter how long you’ve been shooting or how old you are, or how much you think you know, there’s always new things to learn. After that you then decide for yourself if you agree with it.

    This Feinberg Rule is an interesting concept.

    Having said that, my thinking is just the opposite. I’ve never cropped a photo as long as I’ve been shooting. To me, if it wasn’t good enough right before I clicked the shutter, then I shouldn’t be clicking the shutter.

    By not cropping you’ll become more aware of the edges of your frame, and that’s extremely important…to me, that is.

    I also have a lot to say about the “Rule of Thirds’. Check out my blog sometime and read my post on all the rules I break.


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