In this exercise, we begin to study the ‘elements of design’ by looking at positioning of single points within a frame. This study requires points rather than objects that we covered in an earlier exercise. You may remember my set from Portobello beach that investigated the effect of positioning the same object in different positions. My ‘object’ was the guy walking on the beach and I cropped the picture in various ways to demonstrate the static, normal and eccentric positions that he could be in the frame. He was probably small enough in the frame to have been a point.
In this exercise, I took a point to mean:
- an object again, but one occupying a much smaller area of the image
- or a small, contrasting area of light, tone or colour
- or an implied point
The exercise requires that we take three photographs with one point in the middle, slightly offset and close to the edge. As suggested by the notes, I’ve converted to black and white to ‘focus the attention on precisely those parts of the picture that concern us here: the graphic elements’.
The notes explain that a point placed in the centre of the frame rarely works because of the static nature of such images. We’re told that there are exceptions to the rule that may be justified on the grounds of being unconventional. I challenge this in a couple of ways. Firstly, my image featuring a central point uses an implied vanishing point (although the point could be that light area where the road bends right), rather than an object or area of contrast. Secondly, it is entirely conventional in my opinion to place such a vanishing point centrally.
The picture I’ve used with a point off-centre uses the blown-out highlight of a street light as its point. There may be a little too much else going on in the picture to fully illustrate the point (of the exercise), but I positioned the light away from the left edge of the frame to show that the scene was surrounded by darkness. This was a small pool of light in the pitch-black night. The inclusion of the trees lit by the lamp, rather than a plain, black background means that the point provides less division to the composition. It does do a neat job of dividing the lit are from the darkness.
The image illustrating the point at the edge of the frame is also cheating a little bit. I can justify the eccentric positioning by allowing space for the shadow to be cast. It does work as a point and attracts the eye initially, but then the shadow provides further interest and movement across the frame. Without the shadow, it would be hard to give a reason for such extreme positioning. It also builds on what we learnt in the previous exercise on balance – a small object placed further from the centre of the image balanced by the larger shadow in the centre.
Both of these images with off-centre positioning contain the point in the left side of the frame, which when looking back through my pictures, seems to be my preference – when I have a choice of course. To break this habit, I’ve set-up my x100 to use an AF point in he right of the frame to see if it encourages me to compose differently…
Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited.