Pattern’s Name: Rule of Odds
Problem or Question: Which are the best amount multiple elements, over one single figure and a less than multitude that functions as distinguishable subjects?
Visual Elements: Frame odd number of figures. Best numbers are 3 and 5. More than that seem a multitude.
Solution: Frame the subjects by groups of odd numbers. Three (3) to five (5) subjects are very common. Dispose them in a symmetrical or none-symmetrical distribution. The subjects can be a single one or a distinguishable and cohesive group (each group functions as one). It’s a regular disposition to use natural or artificial frames by each subject.
Technical implementation: The rule of odds could be implemented in the same focal plane or in layers. Depends on that situation you will prefer a long or shallow depth of field. It’s strongly harmonious with the application of rule of thirds when you dispose the elements in any 3 planes, lines, or cross points of the frame.
Examples: This is a very strong guide for composition. There are plenty examples in painting and all visual arts. One of them is the classical picture of Munkacsi «Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika». Photographers that use layers have many examples of this pattern. See what A. Webb did with 3 groups of pairs. Also check the well known of Koudelka and the three gypsy boys.
In this image the 3 figures creates a virtual «L» or a triangle. The 3 subjects are conceptually related with the money transaction.
Although 3 figures are the most used number, there are opportunities to group 5 elements as subjects. In this image with several layers, you see the 3 figures in the first two planes, but also a pair of subjects in a third plane, for the total of 5.