Are you aware of hidden emphasis?

By careful composition you can create hidden emphasis

By careful composition you can create hidden emphasis

Micro-details in your picture can provide clues.

It’s a fair bet that you will not find the hidden emphasis in this picture at first glance. Look carefully and you may see it because of the colour and positioning. Not everyone will see it.

Look at the pencil. One of the rubber bands has been arranged in an elongated circle around the pencil. The bright yellow colour is strong enough to make it stand out as a compositional element. It is like a wide halo around the pencil. It is also sufficiently blended in to be almost invisible at first glance. Can you see it?

Three different types of people will react to this visual clue. The artists, who will spot the emphasis immediately. Their eye is trained to see messages in an image. Then, there are people who may or may not spot the emphasis – depending on how skilled their eyes are at visual clues and geometric shapes (in this case). Finally, there are those that will miss it first time, and may not see it until it is pointed out to them. And, there is a whole range of people between them.

You see, everyone has a different type of perspective. When looking at a picture you will be influenced by a whole range of things. Your training, your experience, knowledge, luck, and even previous failure can all lead you to see into a picture in different ways.

What is extraordinary is that those that do not see it first time will probably still pick up the subliminal message. In this picture the message is simple. It is saying, ‘Look at the pencil’. I have deliberately made it simple so I can make the point.

The lesson to be learned from this is that every time you create a composition you will be using subtle and subliminal messages. Lines, curves, position, framing, colour, size, balance… and other elements all provide visual clues to the viewer. If a compositional message cannot be pointed out by the viewer, it does not mean that the message has not worked.

As you learn to see the messages in composition your awareness of meaning grows. You have probably been responding to these compositional clues for a long time. Until you learn ‘composition’ they remain subtle and hidden. When you learn them a new world opens before your eyes. Composition is a lifelong study. Actually it is also your greatest insight into photography.

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