Lessons from the Scene: Where Does Your Eye Go First? by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary

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One of the ways I was first taught to look at a photo is to turn it upside down.  This way you are seeing how the composition and light values of the photo will direct someone to what is important or away.
The light values alone have tremendous affect on the viewer.  If you put a black dot on a white paper with nothing else or a white dot on a black piece of paper your eye is drawn to the dot.
With more stuff on the paper the principle is still the same the contrast of the light value to the rest of the scene will draw you to a spot.
Now that you know this you should then be able to help create a photo that directs the viewer just based on light values to the subject.
Sign manufactures have used big arrows to direct you to a store location.  You could use a huge arrow to show people where to look, or you can use this same principle in a more subtle way to direct the viewer.
Leading lines and perspective can help pull you into a photo and give the photo some depth.  
While straight lines hit you over the head directing your eye the S-curve is a classic way to draw a viewer eye.  One of the most common uses in scenic photo is the river winding through a scene.  
While a photo might look good in different frames you can buy at a frame shop you can also use elements in a photo to help frame the photo.  This framing helps often create a sense of depth to a photo and not just border like a physical frame.  Looking through a doorway to the subject in a room helps create some context. 
Flowers in the foreground and the subject like a house in the background help fill what would often be dead space in the photo.
You can make a nice composed photo of a subject and do a great job of creating a pleasing photo of the subject.  You can also make a photo that is more storytelling and not just a pretty picture.  These are photos that you may be drawn immediately to the main subject, but your eye continues to be moved around the scene and in so doing you are learning more and more about the story.
Some photographers have you looking only at the subject and not much more.  The seasoned storyteller will have you looking all around and absorbed into the content.

Editors Note: Stanley is excited to be able to offer this hands-on workshop in historic Tibet. Participants will walk away with a better understanding of how to engage a culture and effectively tell compelling and complete stories through their photography. All this while having the chance of a lifetime to engage, understand, and photograph the unique culture of eastern Tibet. Go here for more information http://www.plateauphototours.com/blog/visual-storytelling-workshop/.

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