Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Composition - Implied Action

When someone is walking down the street the direction of his next step is usually forward or in front of him. The same is true of a flying bird - it is likely flying forward and not backward (even if a hummingbird can fly backward, most people will assume it is flying forward unless something in the picture implies otherwise). So, the action that is implied is that this person and the bird will move forward. Thus, when you take a picture of the person or the bird you should have more space in front of them than behind them. You are leaving space in the frame into which the person or bird can move. Look at the next two pictures and see what you think of each (again, I cropped the picture on the top, so the Cardinal looks larger in the picture on the bottom).

Doesn't the Northern Cardinal on the bottom look like he is going to crash into the right side of the frame if he takes off? In the top picture, the Cardinal has some space to fly into the frame. In general, most people's brains, without thinking about it, are going to tell them that something is strange about the picture on the bottom. The one on the top is going to be more pleasing to them.

If you look at the Little Wood Satyr photos in the last post, you will notice that the butterfly in photo where it is centered does not have any room to fly out of the picture. However, the one on the focal point can fly to its left and away from the tree.

Some folks just like to be different and cause some tension in their viewers. This can be a useful tool because the viewer takes more time to look at the picture to figure out what is "wrong" with it. Creating emotions in the viewer is a compositional tool also (we may explore it later). Look at the picture below to see if it looks strange to you. Of course, you know what I have been explaining here so the impact may not be as great. Call one of your family members to your computer screen and ask them to look at it (try to hide the pictures above so the impact is greater). Watch their facial expressions. Then, ask them what they think of the picture. I suspect their going to say something like, "That bird is too far to the right hand side of the picture."

The impact would be much greater if the Cardinal's head was facing directly forward. However, if the bird's head was turned more to the left so it looked as if it was viewing something in the left side of the frame, then it's implied action (where it was looking) may then be to the left and the picture would not cause as much tension.

Ah! Isn't it fun to break the rules once in a while. Only this one is not illegal folks. It will not hurt you either. Do try it at home.

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