Tag Archives: Implied

The Rule of Odds – Uneven Composition

The rule of 'odds' - a rule grounded in our concepts of pattern and chaos.

The rule of ‘odds’ is grounded in our concepts of pattern and chaos. We find it easy to pick out a pattern. If the pattern is broken or shows anomaly it is more interesting. The eye is drawn into the picture. Odd numbers are just a little off the comforting pattern of evens. They draw the eye too. Click image to view large.

It’s a little ‘odd’ – but ‘even’ is not as interesting!

The rule of odds relies on the human sense of pattern to capture the attention the viewer. Our brains work well with pattern. We see pattern in almost everything in the world. So it is natural to see it as a central part of composition. When there are small groups of objects or people the rule of odds becomes a valuable attraction for the eye.

Why does the rule of odds work so well? There are several reasons. The eye is pleased by symmetry. Evenness represents symmetry. It represents balance… it’s about plainness and organization. On the other hand an odd number steps out of the realm of organization and plainness. When we see an odd number it is natural and compelling for our eye to seek the missing component to even it up again. We look into the picture to try and satisfy the pattern.

Some pictures, like the one, above obviously have nothing in them to fulfill evenness. There is no fourth dice here. However, the number three creates another simple pattern. The Triangle is also attractive to us. Placed in a position that creates a triangle three objects form an implied shape that attracts the eye. It is symmetrical, yet it is odd.

The rule of odds is not just about ‘threes’. The eye is drawn to odd numbers in small groups where we can see the oddness of objects at a glance. Five, seven, even nine are all numbers that pull the eye toward them. Once objects become too numerous to be immediately and obviously odd in number the appeal is lost. The eye does not search to fulfill the pattern. So the rule of odds works because of the simplicity of low numbers – it relies on quick recognition of the situation to draw the eye into the picture and keep it working to find the balance.

The rule of odds plays out its role in composition in many ways. If you are looking to make a bigger impact then find a way to place an odd number of objects into your picture. An odd number provides more interest, more reason for the eye to search the picture. Remember, the ultimate aim is to draw the eye of the viewer into the shot and keep them looking and finding interest.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

The Eyes Have It… nine ways to emphasize eyes

The eyes are often the most important element in a photograph.

"Bison" - The eyes are often the most important element in a photograph. Make them central to your shot if you can. Your viewer will almost always start there.

The most important element of a photograph

The power in the eyes of a person or an animal draws your viewer into your photograph. The stronger and more prominent you make the eyes the more you will capture the attention of your viewer.

There are many ways you can help emphasize the eyes…

Focus:
Nearly always the eyes should have the most sharpness. If the eyes are sharp then you will be able to get the attention of the viewer. You can of course vary your depth of field and your softness for other parts of the picture, as long as the eyes are sharp.

Thirds:
As with any composition the eyes are a significant element. You can really highlight them well if they are on one of the ‘Rule of Thirds‘ grid points. If it is not easy to fit them to a grid point then try to put them on one of the lines of thirds. Both these positions will make them have a more dynamic position in the picture.

Lines:
Often when composing a picture it is possible to use the eyes to join up with other compositional elements. The eyes have two points which implies a line between them. If you are able to put them on a line with something else in the picture the implied line will draw the eyes of your viewer. That implied line is a powerful way to get your viewer involved.

Line of sight:
A very strong compositional tool is to use the eyes of a subject in the picture to point out something else in the picture. This is done by photographing the subject with their eyes looking toward another significant object in the picture. This correspondence helps the viewer to understand the prominence of both the subjects. Lots of expression on the face of the ‘looker’ helps with this one too. Often this is a great ploy for a ‘different’ photograph at a tourist site. Photograph a tourists eyes drinking in the view and you will provide a great interplay between the tourist spot and the other person. You will be showing not only the human element but also the famous place.

On the diagonal:
The eyes are normally seen evenly placed on the horizontal. As that is how we normally see them they are, well, normal. If you ask your subject to incline their head a little so the eyes are slightly on the diagonal they have a new dynamic… er, not normal! Do it, you will see how effective it can be. Not for every picture, situation or face, but a great ploy in a set of photos. The inclined head is often the image that gets picked out. (See: Nadia by Enigma Photos – below).

Rapport:
Often, when taking a portrait, the eyes look alive and dynamic when they appear to make contact with the photographer. Remember your viewer is looking at you when you take the shot, but they are looking directly at the viewer of you shot too. That has a great impact on the viewer. So if you can build a rapport with your subject the eyes really seek out the viewer and have a greater impact as a result.

Catchlights:
The eyes often look dead and lifeless if there are no ‘catchlights’. That is the photographers term for that little flicker of light that you see in the eye… a reflection from a near light source. The catchlights give life, shape and direction to the eye. In fact portrait photographers are obsessive about getting these little compositional elements right in the eyes because they eyes just die without them. Really study catchlights and find opportunities to put them into your shots. Your photos will come alive.

Emotion:
The eyes often convey great emotion. Just look at the eyes of a winner in a sports competition. Wow! They say it all. Now capture the eyes of the loser. Wham! Real impact. Get those eyes in focus right at the moment of the fully expressed emotion and you will have a winner.

Not there…
Sometimes it is what you can’t see in a picture that provides the impact. Eyes, or at least where they should be, can be very impactful if they are not where you expect them.

Here are a few pictures that really show the impact of eyes. I hope that some of them inspire and inform your own shots. Why not leave a link in the comments so we can see your eye shots too.

Eyes, Dwarka  Green eyed little girl, Dwarka, Gujarat, India.

Eyes, Dwarka Green eyed little girl, Dwarka, Gujarat, India.

On this link you can see a really captivating pair of dogs eyes. Wonderful focus and excellent perspective… Beagle eyes External link - opens new tab/page

Here are a really dynamic pair of childs eyes. Wonderful capture! Behind these hazel eyes… External link - opens new tab/page

The eyes have it! Papu in Pushkar, India

The eyes have it! Papu in Pushkar, India


Eye Contact

Eye Contact


Eyes wide shot

Eyes wide shot


After Feeding

After Feeding


Nadia by Enigma Photos

Nadia by Enigma Photos


Eyes wide open by umar.s, on Flickr

Eyes wide open by umar.s, on Flickr

This link takes you to a photograph that is exciting because of what you cannot see… Look External link - opens new tab/page

I've lost sight of the things that matter by Melissa Turner., on Flickr

I've lost sight of the things that matter by Melissa Turner., on Flickr


Wolf by Netkonnexion On flickr

Wolf by Netkonnexion On flickr

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Perspective (Compositional ideas)

Perspective helps us to see depth, three dimensions, on a two dimensional page.

Perspective helps us to see depth, three dimensions, on a two dimensional page.

From babyhood we learn to see perspectives. Although today this seems natural to us it has not always been this way. Artists first began to consistently portray three dimensions during the Renaissance period. Before that time symbolism and the relative importance of elements defined art. People might be sized according to rank for example or defined by the clothing colour. In ancient art perspective was almost missing. Many of the worlds cultures had flat pictures depicting people and objects only in two dimensions (2D).

Today pictures are considered representations of the real world. We see this ‘reality’ so strongly that we are astonished if it turns out as an illusion. So what gives something 3D in a picture? It’s a simple trick. We employ elements in a picture that strengthen our view of depth or dimension. We use converging lines or relative sizes to give visual clues to our viewers. They see these clues and they ‘see’ distance and depth.

Successful photographers hunt for elements in a scene to help the viewer see depth. It’s part of composing the shot. Look for those visual clues. Deliberately pick out the lines of perspective, the relative sizes of objects or the position of smaller (distant) objects compared to bigger (near) ones.

In your compositions try to…

  • …pick out lines that convey perspective.
  • …emphasise the relative sizes of things near and far.
  • …use key objects to help viewers judge size/distance of other objects.
  • …use foreground objects as clues for size/distance to background objects.

In your photographs try to find as many things as possible to help the viewer see into your picture. If you give your viewer lots of these clues you will have an interesting and ‘alive’ picture.

The definition in our photographic glossary also provides a lot of information on perspective

Abstract photography – what it is and how to do it

Abstract photography - great pictures and lots of fun!

'Red' - In the style of Rothko
Abstract photography can produce great pictures and be lots of fun!
Concentrate on colour, form, shape and focus for best effect.
Click to view large.

What is Abstract Photography?

“Abstraction forces you to reach the highest level of the basics.”

Alan Soffer

Abstract photography concentrates on the very simplest of components in a piece of art. Those are are known as the “Elements of Art”. They are…

  • Line;
  • Two dimensional shape (2d);
  • Three dimensional (3d) form;
  • Colour;
  • Space;
  • Tone, and
  • Texture.
Extra dimensions in abstract photography

Two extra dimensions are often found in abstract photography. One is the use of ‘movement’ – mostly through movement-blur. Perhaps, used more often is the use of focus, especially by controlling the depth of field. In addition, abstracts often incorporate “pattern”, which is a more complex structure from the “Principles of Art”.

Photo abstracts take the viewer away from knowing or recognizing the subject. Instead they invite the viewer to almost ‘feel’ the textures, forms and other elements of the subject. Often abstract photography makes the object unrecognisable as an object in its own right. Instead it directs attention to the look and feel – the essence of the object.

For a more detailed definition of Abstract Photography check this page in our Glossary…
Abstract Photography – a Definition

How to Shoot Abstracts

Abstracts are about our creativity and not about the object. The simple shot above, with its rich emotional orange, is a glass of water coloured with red dye and slightly backlit with a desk lamp. Many abstracts are created using the simplest things – often they are found around the home. Abstract photography is all about simplicity. Getting down to the basics is often the best route to a good abstract.

Using the “Elements of Art”

The list above is perhaps difficult to think about in terms of actually creating an image. However, think carefully about what you see in the frame for your shot. Often you can see these simple elements in your subject. Try to simplify your shot so that you see only one, two, or at most three of those elements. If you manage to get the image to remain simple, you will make the shot more understandable. If you also manage, through that simplicity, to capture the readers eye, you will excite the viewer. Simple components, simple connections, simple insight to a subject – all these give you effective abstract material.

Study the Elements of Art, at length. Try to see the simplicity within your frame. That is the key to developing your insight into abstraction.

Other techniques…

To help you shoot a few abstracts I have put a list of things you can try below. Try one, or a few at a time. Compare them to some of the examples in the links below the list. Reduce or remove clutter. Keep your shot as simple as possible.

  • Look for patterns – especially very close up.
  • Textures – show the ‘feel’ of surfaces and faces of an object.
  • Try unusual or unique angles.
  • Use a macro lens, macro tubes, or get really close.
  • Crop very tight to an interesting/unrecognisable part.
  • Concentrate on multiple colour variations without showing the whole object.
  • Concentrate on tonal variation – minimise colours.
  • Use long, low light exposure to bring out subtle shadow variations.
  • Use soft or hard light variations on close-ups.
  • Emphasis the ‘shape’ (2d) of an object – keep it from being recognised.
  • Exaggerate the ‘form’ (3d) of something – keep it from being recognised.
  • Concentrate on curves and rounded shapes or forms.
  • Concentrate on angular and geometric shapes or forms.

Many of these can be applied to everyday objects or common items. Once you become aware of the shapes, forms, patterns and textures in the things around you a new world opens up. So try to take one of the above and spend a few days looking at everything around you for ways to see that item. Then move on to others. Before long you will be an abstract photographer!

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines create dynamic and uplifting mood in your images.

Diagonal lines create dynamic and uplifting mood in your images.

Diagonal lines can create a dynamic and uplifting mood in your images. They convey power and often a strong sense of movement and action. Diagonals are sometimes considered the most powerful of the compositional lines. They influence the viewer every time they are used. However, despite the association with ‘action’, they can also be quite subtle. It is diagonal lines that often create depth and perspective in your images. However, the strong feeling of cutting the image across also leads to a tension in the image that can set up a dynamic and uneasy feeling if used in certain contexts. In fact, the context of a diagonal is most important.

What are diagonals?

An informal definition of a diagonal is a ‘sloping line’. Of course in an image there can be complex relationships between the objects in the image. So a sloping line is rarely just that. Diagonals also interact with the edges of the image itself. It is this relationship which often defines the strength of the diagonal. Strong diagonals tend to be at around fourty five degrees to the edges of the image edge. So they form a strong contra-influence to the edge. On the other end of the scale more subtle angles off the horizontal or vertical tend to convey depth and to lead the eye into the picture.

This relationship that diagonals create is strongly related to the context of the image. Subtle lines that form edges, particularly of buildings or roads, tend to promote the feel of distance, trending away from the viewer, when they are diagonals. This creates the depth of the image, or if more inclined to the vertical, creates distance. So it is the eye that discerns the importance of the diagonal, because it is our interpretation of it that determines its strength.

Artists and photographers alike have determined that a strong upward diagonal from bottom left towards the top right provides an uplifting feeling. This may be because in the Western world we read from right to left. It is also notable that most commonly graphs are seen to start at the ‘origin’ (bottom left) and trend upwards in this form as well. In other words Western culture is programmed to see the left/right diagonal as an uplifting and action related line. It is worth noting that this may not be the same in other cultures, and that different systems of reading lead to different ways the eye reads images.

Similarly, the diagonal from top left to bottom right has the opposite effect. We find it easy to follow that line in an image, but as a downward and sweeping our move. Also, in a graph the downward trend shows the negative side of things. So, although it may be to a lesser extent, we can find ways to use the diagonal in a less expansive, down-trending way. Nevertheless, the strength of the diagonal is undeniable.

Using Diagonals

Of all the diagonals, especially in an action shot, the upward left-to-right sweep is the strongest. If you can find a way to express that in an image you will have a powerful influence over the viewers eye. So look to bring that out in your images, especially if that can be implied or captured in an action or movement. On the other hand strong diagonals tend to make great patterns because they impact powerfully on the eye. So rather than take a pattern shot straight on to the lines (creating horizontals or verticals) think of pacing-off to the side, visually creating diagonals.

Diagonals are created in a number of ways. You can off-set the horizontal or vertical, but sometimes it is better to sight along a diagonal. This creates a feel of depth rather than a strong off-set to the edges of the image. So, instead of taking your picture of a building straight on, sight along it from one side a little. This creates perspective, because the lines tend to converge as diagonals the further they are from your position. The effect is subtle but subconsciously strong. A picture with depth is one that is more convincing and therefore has more impact. Lots of forms of converging diagonals can be used in this way. The lines forming the edge of a road converge diagonally to one-another as they disappear into the distance. This creates a powerful depth to the picture. The same can be said of rivers, railways and other strong edges that are close to each other.

Of all the composition lines the diagonal tends to be strongest when straight. However, there is absolutely no reason why a gently curving river or road trending away from you cannot be both strong and yet softly influencing. A curve offers a smoothing, gentle influence over the harshness of a strong line in any composition. Place it on the diagonal and you are providing a subtle and influential feeling as well. So, especially in landscapes, curved diagonals can be important structural elements within your image without inducing motion, action or tension that can be discordant.

Impact

The outcome of your picture relies on how much it impacts on the viewer. If you draw your viewer in and convince them of the depth and reality of the picture you have created a powerful image. Diagonals, because of the tension and dynamics they create, as well as depth, have many powerful ways to impact on the eye. This is great. However, they can be overused like any other compositional element. So make sure you are picking out just what you need to create the image you want. Too much and you throw the picture out of balance. Too little and the impact is lost. So look to using diagonals to give depth and draw the viewer to engage with the image. Natural, upward sweeps and gentle lines create the power of diagonals with softness of influence. Harsh and straight imparts tension and distance.

Make sure you experiment. Review your images with diagonals and consider ways you could have used them differently to influence the viewer. Awareness of diagonals is the first step to mastering the composition that uses them. So look for them in the frame when composing the shot. Like all composition, diagonals take time and reviewing to master their use.

Have fun with diagonals.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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