Exercise 1.2 Point
Take two or three photographs in which a single point is placed in different parts of the frame. (A ‘point’ should be small in relationship to the frame; if it’s too large it becomes a shape.)
How can you evaluate the pictures? How do you know whether you’ve got it right or not? Is there a right place and a wrong place for the point? For the sake of argument, let’s say that the right place shouldn’t be too obvious and that the point should be clear and easy to see. As there’s now a ‘logic’ to it, you can evaluate your composition according to the logic of the point.
As you look at the pictures you might find that you’re also evaluating the position of the point by its relationship to the frame.
Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.
Can you find any place where the point is not in relationship to the frame? If it’s in relationship to the frame you can place a point in any part of the picture and the picture is balanced.
You could think about the two parts of this exercise in a different way, as ‘test pictures’ versus ‘real pictures’. The only purpose for the test pictures is the exercise: you can analyse them according to the criteria and get the expected answer. But ‘real’ pictures are not so easy to analyse. What are the criteria for ‘relationship’? (We’re hoping that you’ll shoot the rest of the exercises in this course as real pictures, not test pictures!)
As you review your photographs, observe the way your eye ‘scans’ the surface of the image. Note how:
- a point attracts attention out of proportion to its size
- the eye looks for connections between two points
- placing a point close to the edge seems to animate both the point and the frame.Print out two or three of your point photographs and trace the route your eye takes over the surface with a pencil. Then try the same with a selection of photographs from newspapers or magazines (or the example above). You should notice that each photograph seems to have its own tempo. Add the traced photographs to your learning log together with brief observations.
In order to gain a better understanding of composition and this exercise. I purchased a book called “The photographer’s eye” by Michael Freeman.
During my research, I drew my attention to chapter 3, which discussed the graphic elements of a photographical composition. This being “Point, Line and Shape”.
The most basic element being the point. Which is what this exercise is about. I understood that a point needed to be a small part but it must be something significant, a noticeable object in the frame.
So I took my camera (Nikon D750 with a long focal lens 70mm-300mm) out and photographed a boat on water. I kept the detail simple without the distraction of any other objects so as to not create multiple points for this first part. This also helped identify the point, since the colour contrast was not very significant. I placed the boat in different areas of the frame. I was conscious of keeping it small in relationship to the frame so as to not turn it into a “Shape”, which it could have easily become being very obviously triangular in shape.
In this first frame I chose perhaps the most “obvious” composition, albeit boring and predictable, directly in the centre of the frame.
This was shot with the point being in the lower left of the frame. Since the boat was travelling right, having the boat in the left of the frame would have probably been my most natural chosen composition.
I placed the point in the right, upper part of the frame for this shot.
Evaluating The Initial Pictures.
Whilst, I don’t believe you can get composition “right” or “wrong” if there is an intended message in which the composition of a point helps to convey that message, I do believe that certain compositions are more aesthetically pleasing to the viewers eye. Certain compositions will also be better balanced with multiple points or the inclusions of other factors, such as leading lines and shapes.
Since I chose a simple background for my point in these test pictures, my point clear and easy to see. There isn’t much of a contrast in colour between the boat, sea and sky which is why I chose to keep the background very basic and free from any distractions.
In picture 1 the boat is centred in the middle of the frame. I do think it gives the feeling of space or emptiness around the point, as a lone boat on the water. It isn’t wrong, but I personally find the composition boring in this instance.
My chosen composition would be picture 2. The boat is travelling right, so offsetting the direction of travel by placing the boat to the left helps to balance the frame. It allows the boat room to “travel into” the frame and gives the viewer an idea of where the object is going, which adds context to the picture – “This is where the boat is heading”.
In picture 3 the boat is leaving the frame. I feel that the picture isn’t balanced in my view but it does add context to the picture in the sense that you can see where the boat has been or travelled from.
Point In Relationship To The Frame
After analysing my initial “test” pictures, I took a number of photographs in different settings in which I compositionally placed a point in relationship to the frame.
In this picture above, my point is the bird in the sky. I placed it in the upper part of the frame to emphasise it soaring high over the trees. It adds to the feeling of height within the trees and contrasts well against the plain, cloudy sky behind. Which makes it stand out and leads your eye to it.
In this photo of two white horses, my point is the yellow flower. I waited for the right time to compositionally place a yellow flower (of which there had been a few to choose from luckily) close to the horses mouth, the contrast in colour against the white horses adds vibrance and draws the eye towards it, it also compliments the hints of yellow in the background behind the horses, which helps to link the picture with all of the frame. It also does not interfere on this side of the horses face with that of the horse stood behind. Therefore it does not overshadow the object of the picture at all.
In this photo, my point is the pink house amongst the trees. The house is a good colour contrast against the green countryside which naturally makes it stand out. I placed it along the right third of the photo to give the feeling of vastness and picturesque around the house and making it appear quite alone, giving a sense of quietness. The hills were uphill, framing the house well in this composition. Had I placed the house to the left of the frame it would not have had the same feel that the house is buried in amongst the hills and rather stood out on top of them, which would have conveyed a slightly different message of a high and mighty house as opposed to a humble and quiet one.
This picture was taken with a long exposure. The woman at the end of the wall is my point. The colour contrast of her skin against a pale pallet of colours in the rest of the frame make her stand out and your eye is lead along the wall to her at the end. I chose to place her compositionally in the very left of the picture making her almost hidden in the frame, which works well as she is an anonymous figure with her back to the camera and the composition adds to the almost voyeuristic nature of the shot, its like she is trying to hide something. There is also a feeling that she is standing on the end of the earth with only a wall between and I wanted to fill most of the frame with the pale sea depicting the openness and space.
In this image, I attempted multiple points, that being the seagulls in flight across the frame leading to the one sitting upon the sign to the right of the frame. They do take more dominance of the picture, but only collectively. There is a contrast between that of the flying birds and the ones on the ground. They are not uniform as are all in different motions of flight making them unique to each other but still with the relationship of being the same birds. The line they take across the frame and then into it towards the right, gives the picture a depth to it.
Naturally, as I review the images above. My eye scans for links in the photograph. Lines leading towards the point and colour contrasts for example are things I noticed immediately. Points against a plan background are forced to stand out which draws the eye in as well.
I believe the criteria for “relationship” between the point and the frame is that the should draw attention of the eye without it completely overpowering the frame, it should help to add context and detail to an image and assist with the message that the picture aims to portray or at least the perception of that by the viewer. Having several points in a frame also creates a relationship between them within the frame, the eye will naturally be drawn from one to the next, creating unseen lines and shapes between them and if done well, it can take naturally the viewer’s eye on a tour around the image.
I printed out three of my photographs and took some photographs from magazines and traced the route my eye took across each picture. I have added them to my learning log here.
Freeman, M. (2017 Edition) The Photographer’s Eye. Ilex