The first three photographs are ‘test’ controlled conditions to show the effect of the point position on the composition dynamics of the image. For clarity I have placed a single object on a neutral background. There is no other visual distraction and the point is small enough in relationship to the frame.
This position is deemed static in that the eye is not carried anywhere else into the frame.
The eye sees it and is carried through the point therefore gives the image some dynamism.
Corner/Close to the Edge
In this very eccentric position it carries the eye right out the picture.
So effectively the centre can be deemed as boring, static and uninteresting, off centre is moderately dynamic and comfortable, while the corner/edge although can be used but needs to be justified against the other elements in the image.
For me the off centre is the most balanced placement but the question then comes how off centre and in what direction. Therefore while the point may be in the right place is could still be visually unbalanced because it does not sit right with the rest of the picture. Also in the above the positions are ‘rules’ as such, however it does really much depend on what else is in the picture. It can be effective to put something at the edge providing it is in harmony with the choice of subject in other words it has a justification for being there.
What I found interesting is that the shape and direction of the point is also important. This adds a further dimension. Initially the test shot were to be a tried a triangular shaped leaf on grass background. But what I discovered that the more the point was moved to the edge the more the shape of the object influenced the dynamics. The point acted as a compass to take your eye either out or in the picture. It almost became a leading line.
I had never analysed a point in terms of it “should be small in relationship to the frame; if it’s too large it becomes a shape”. In fact had not really considered the difference between point, shape and object. The following ‘test’ images repeat the same exercise with the view to seeing if they give the same visual feelings as the initial set.
What I see now is that the point relates to the frame not only in terms of position but also size. There is a scale of relationship in that at one end the point is so small it ceases to become the point and is difficult to determine and decipher from anything else and at some point becomes to big that it actually becomes the image. I would assume that there is no fixed calculation of volume or space but it is all in relation to what else is in the picture.
This set of pictures shows the relationship of the point in relation to the frame again demonstrating by a centre, off centre and edge approach.
Other element in the picture now come into play and these have an effect on the point. The first picture shows the bin dead centre. The elements around are not distracting and therefore the eye goes straight to the centre and almost stay there. The second is off centre and far more balanced and the eye explores into the picture to the woodland beyond. The third is in the corner. In theory this should upset the balance but in fact the other element justify the positioning. While the eye should be taken out the image it is actually lead in by the point and through into the woodland beyond.
In the third photograph above I see the eye taking the following path. The eye stays firmly in the image.
It could be argued that this has become a multipoint image (the bin, the bright green bush and the vanishing point through the trees) and also that the upright of the trees in relation to the frame especially so the one on the right stop the eye leaving the image. In fact I would argue that without the bin the image becomes much weaker.
In Tickets (Thomas Leuthard) the eye is drawn into the face of the person (the point) by the strong diagonals forming a framework in which the eye stays within. It could be argued that the eye explores the underneath of the rail and leaves the picture however I would subscribe that the point is so strong the eye does not really wander.
In Spiral (Martin Fisch) the is no ambiguity as to the point. The eye is lead down the spiral into the centre well. Also the corners draw in the eye. I think this is because the point is placed of centre so the eye does not try to balance any symmetry.
Reflection on Exercise
While I was aware of the point as a compositional technique I do not yet think that it is natural yet in my work. Therefore within the “conscious competence” learning model I would place myself just in Stage 3 of Conscious Competence. What I would hope is that as I progress through the course my skill with utilising the point will move to Stage 4 Unconscious Competence.
Both Tickets (Thomas Leuthard) and Spiral (Martin Fisch) reproduced under the Creative Commons agreement.