Composition: Five Pigeons On A Wire – The Rule Of Odds

The Rule Of Odds

A photo of five common pigeons on a wire illustrating the rule of odds
This photo of five pigeons illustrate the rule of odds


Sometimes, when it comes to photographic opportunities, you get something completely different than what you were trying to achieve in the first place.

That is what happened with this picture.

I had been out birdwatching, trying to get some good images of robins, but I had no luck this day. I only saw the bird a few times, and the photos I got was no good, blurry and from too far away.

That’s just how it is sometimes when trying to shoot birds or wildlife. You can wait and wait, but the opportunity you are looking for never occurs.

So I went home.

As I was parking my car by my house, I saw something moving in the rearview mirror.

This movement was a number of pigeons on the telephone and electrical wires across the street.

Although plain town pigeons are usually not that interesting there was something that caught my eye about these birds.

There were quite a few of them so they made the wires sway and bounce up and down.

This in turn made the birds look kind of funny as they were trying to hang on to the swaying wires.


How did I set up for this photo, and how did I apply the rule of odds?

Knowing this was a fleeting moment, I had to act fast.

I grabbed my camera which already had the Sigma 150-500mm lens attached, and one of my bean bags, and got out of the car.

Thankfully, the pigeons were focused on each other and fighting over a good spot on the wire, and didn’t mind me at all.

I set up the beanbag on the roof of my car and leaned my camera and lens on it, while framing the birds.

Although it was early afternoon the light was kind of dull and flat as it was an overcast day, so I knew I had to raise the ISO a bit to get the shutter speed required to freeze the motion of these birds.

I raised it to ISO640 giving me a shutter speed of 1/250sec at f/8. Ideally the shutter speed should have been even faster seeing how much the birds were bouncing, but I had to weigh that against too much high ISO noise and try to balance it.

While doing this I remembered in the back of my mind reading something about a compositional technique called the rule of odds.

This “rule” states that keeping an odd number of main elements (3, 5, 7 etc.) in a photograph creates a more dynamic and sometimes more appealing and interesting composition.

If you want to know more about this technique (and a few other compositional techniques) in detail, try visiting these links:

So as I was thinking about odd numbers being a good thing and trying to zoom in as close as I could with my 150-500mm lens, I ended up choosing five pigeons in the frame.

I later took some shots of some of the other pigeons using a different number of elements (both odds and evens), but none of them turned out as good as this one.

As the wires were swaying and the birds had to shift their weight around to stay in place, and some of them were seemingly looking at the photographer, I think this turned out to be a funny image of some common town pigeons.

What type of editing did I do to this image?

I actually did a bit of editing here.

First of all I had to make the image a bit brighter, as you can see from the original here it was a bit too dark.

The originial image of the five pigeons on a wire before editing
This was the original photo of the five pigeons before any editing was done.

This and the general contrast/sharpness adjustments I do with all my photos were done in Adobe Lightroom.

As you also can see, the original image contains an element that is not present in the final image. The additional wire in the bottom left corner.

I chose to remove this in Adobe Photoshop using content-aware fill.

The ethics behind adding or removing elements from photographs have been widely debated.

I believe it’s ok to remove certain elements unless it significantly alters the scene, and if the image is to be used commercially, I believe a disclosure of what has been done and the purpose for it is in order.

I know that this opinion may be controversial among the purists out there. What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.

The background also had no detail in it, so instead of the original dull color I turned it pure white, so when it’s displayed here it kind of blends in with the page background.

Finally, here is a crop of the same image displaying only four of the pigeons, just to show how much less of a dynamic composition that is when it’s not complying with the rule of odds.


An image of four pigeons illustrating the lack of dynamic when the number of elements in the photo are even.
Here is a crop of the same photo illustarting the less dynamic when the number of elements are even.



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