Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

Are you looking at me???  Or are you looking at that thing behind me?  Or that thing next to me?  What are you looking at?

In writing, a paragraph has a main point and some supporting details.  If not, the reader may become confused and wonder what the writer was trying to convey.

In photography, the same principle applies.  An image has a main subject and some supporting details.  If not, the viewer may become confused and wonder what the photographer was taking a picture of.

The key is simplicity.  Minimize what is in the frame.  Be clear about what you are taking a picture of.  Where do you want the viewer to look?  Is there something competing with it?  Then eliminate it from the frame or minimize the attention it draws.

How do you eliminate something from the frame?  Try getting in closer.  Try changing your point of view or the angle of the camera.  If possible, remove it.  If it's a piece of litter on the ground that is distracting, pick it up.  Is there a bottle or glass on the table competing for attention?  Move it. 

How do you minimize the attention something draws?  Adjust what is in focus and out of focus.  Carefully choose the placement of your subject in the frame.  Look at the relative size and brightness of the objects in the frame and adjust accordingly.  The eye tends to go to what is big and what is bright.  Even if the main subject is big, a bright area or object that is not the subject will compete for attention, no matter what size it is.

Be clear in what you are communicating in the image.  Keep it simple.  Eliminate or minimize distractions.  Make sure everything else supports the main subject.  Gosh, this applies to so many things in life, doesn't it?  Keep it simple and make sure people are looking where you want them to look!


  1. Your post made me think about Bill Clinton's campaign strategy. The story is that in his campaign headquarters, they put up a sign that said "It's the economy, stupid!" While I am not too keen on the stupid part, the sign was a reminder to stay focused on one simple message and not get distracted.

    I think about that when I'm teaching. What is the one single thing I want my students to learn?

    And I think about it in my life. Stephen R. Covey said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." What is the main thing in my life? What is the main thing in yours?

  2. Hi Galen! Thanks for stopping by again! I love the Stephen Covey quote. I think I've seen that before. It's funny you said that, because, as I was writing this, I was thinking of the Job Readiness program I used to teach and how this same principle applies to resumes, interviews, elevator speeches... It's so important to make sure the other person knows what your main point is. Or, that you yourself know what your own main point is. Helps to live a more focused life.... Sorry, just couldn't resist that last pun!