I regularly teach a class on composition during my workshops, and one topic we discuss is how the eye moves through an image. What attracts the eye (i.e. viewer), what causes confusion, why do some photographs just look so good? Being able to articulate these concepts is critical in visual literacy, and is fundamental in creating better photographs. If you don’t know why a shot is good, then how can you create another good image except by luck alone?
Let’s review a few principles. First, viewers go to what is sharp in an area before they go to the blurry sections. Next, high saturation of color attracts the eye and draws the viewer into the image. The same can be said for areas of high contrast.
And bright areas in the image attract the viewer’s eye before dark areas. Light advances, dark recedes….or does it? Nothing kills a good image more quickly than some bright object in the background that distracts the viewer from the subject. But the one exception to this rule is when you have mist and foggy conditions; then dark advances, and light recedes. Take a look at the image above. We were staying in a lodge in the rainforest, and mornings consisted of misty clouds blowing through the jungle. This presented a great opportunity to use the ‘dark advances’ concept. The Costa Rican jungle is dense, with mysterious sounds and animals moving through it. I liked the way this image captured this magical place.