Summarized by Florence W Deems

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The text below is my summary of an educational video by Craig Tanner.

Composition, as applied to photographic images, is how we arrange the subject matter within the square or rectangular flat 2-dimensional area enclosed by the 4 borders.

When we as viewers look at photographic images, our eyes usually follow the flows of implied energy/movement within the square/rectangular frame.

Direction: Westerners are taught to read from upper left to lower right, and there is some evidence that we also tend to "read" images the same way. So the movement of the eye is from top left to top right, back to slightly lower left side to right side, back to even lower left side to right side and eventually back to lower left corner to lower right corner.

direction flow chart

Gravity: Also our eyes seem to want to move from the top to the bottom, as what is "up" must come "down."

gravity chart

There are two basic ways in which we "read" an image: 1. physical; 2. conceptual.

Visual Weight - where our eyes are pulled to first and in descending order of "weight" -

  1. Area of highest/greatest contrast: light/dark; color contrasts (red/green, etc)

  2. Brightest areas - bright areas tend to "come forward."

  3. Warm color areas - red, orange, yellow.

  4. Cool color areas - green, blue, purple,

  5. Dark/shadowy areas.

  6. Black areas - our minds tend to skip over black areas entirely. Therefore, these areas must be managed carefully - such as in silhouettes.

  7. Archetypes - are components of the collective thoughts of all human beings. They serve to organize, direct and inform human thought and behavior. Universal and innate, archetypes can be found in the form of symbols, myths, rituals, and instincts of the collective human subconscious. Archetypes in images can be on the surface level as realistic shapes, or in more subtle areas as shapes, colors, lines, etc, that cause us to call up thoughts/feelings from our subconscious.

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To the "Rules of Composition" and what I did about them -
How I Broke Out of the Box

More on Breaking the Rules

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