Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Composition and frame-edge distractions

I was browsing through flickr and came across a shot that was really great—apart from a couple of things which detracted from the composition, and so I felt it deserved some feedback...

Before you read on, you might want to have a look at Shadowgraphy's image for yourself (opens in a new tab).


Here's the critique I left:
Another great shot - but that grass left of centre has to go... too distracting. It's one of those rules of thumb about composition, not having something which contrasts against the edge of the frame.

The reason is because it automatically draws the eye to that spot and it's hard then for the eye to "get into" the picture. Also, in this case, it cuts across the beautiful, clean lines of the shed/barn reflection and breaks its symmetry. (Same for the aerial atop the barn.)

There's another comp rule in there - simplify, simplify, simplify!! I hope you don't mind the critique but it's/you've got such great potential, you deserve the constructive feedback :)

What is a frame-edge distraction?

This is anything that crosses/bumps into the edge of the picture and which is very obvious. Have a look at Shadowgraphy's image. Another example, say you've got someone in the background wearing a red top, cut in half by the left frame edge and they're standing in a wide expanse of green grass.

If you can imagine that, you'll see in your mind's eye that the contrast of the red against the green means it stands out. Then, with the figure cut in half by the edge of the picture, it will interrupt the straight edge and will be doubly obvious for that reason.

Why is that bad?

Any time the viewer's eye moves towards and into the edge of picture, their attention is likely to continue across the edge and out of the picture. The last place you want them to be! Anything that interrupts the frame edge will act like a magnet to the eye, so don't do it!

Like with all rules of thumb, though, it's made to be broken—just do it consciously and with artistic intent!

Why does that happen?

It's a side-effect of the way that the eye/brain works on the physical level. Between them, they're hard-wired to subconsciously respond to straight edges, especially verticals, horizontals and diagonals.

If one of those straight lines is broken or interrupted, that boosts the stimulus even more and the subconscious responds by knocking on the door of your consciousness. This in turn attracts your attention right to that spot.

Nothing we can do about it, it's just the way we're built. But of course, now that you know why this happens, you can turn it to your compositional advantage... using lead-in lines is a great example. Way to go!  :)

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)
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