For this exercise, I took several pictures of a bottle cap that I found on the pavement as I was walking by. At first I tried to place the point in different positions around the centre of the frame.
The point in the above pictures appears to me to be in reasonable balance with the frame, in the sense that it does not result in the eye paying too much attention to one part the picture. Most of the pictures I took focused on the top right side of the frame, so just to see if there was any difference I inverted one of the pictures I took during post-processing:
The above picture is not much different from the previous ones in term of the position of the dot, but I did find that the position of the dot in this case was less balanced than the previous to. The combination of lines and the dot in this case make my eye to try to constantly move down, and somewhat trying to escape the picture through the bottom. It does not seem logical at first, but it may have something to do with cultural influences that make viewers more comfortable with items placed on the right hand side of a frame.
Another thing I wanted to explore was the impact of a point placed at the extremes of a frame, or even barely on it:
From the above, Pictures 5 and 7 start to appear unbalanced with respect to the frame as the point drags the attention too much to the edges of the frame and there. Because the spot is only partially in the frame in those cases, the sensation that I have as a spectator is that of anguish, in that it is not possible to know if the photographer deliberately included the point in the picture or if it was just accidental. Too much attention is given to this idea and in the end, it ends up consuming the pictures.
To my surprise, I found picture 5 to be the most balanced of the lot, including those previously shot with the spot around the middle third of the frame. In picture 5 the spot is right at the top right border of the frame, but it is entirely in the frame and carefully positioned vis-a-vis the corner so that it does not touch any of the edges. On this occasion, it does look like it was deliberately shot this way and consequently, the viewer can move to analyse the picture as a whole, including why the spot was placed there. I also find that the spot in the corner is well-balanced by the position of the lines on the left hand side of the frame, and that the eye moves back and forth between the two elements without any of them overwhelming the other too much.
I also tried to invert picture 5 to see if the balance was altered when placing the spot on the lower left hand side of the frame
Picture 5 inverted
On this occasion, I found myself paying a lot more attention to the spot and the picture seems to drag the viewer towards the edge of the frame more than in picture 5 above, but the effect is not as unbalanced as that of picture 3, and I did not find my eye moving constantly outside the frame. This may have to do with the fact that picture 5 was shot almost perpendicular to the pavement, whereas picture 3 was shot at an angle which accentuates the convergence effect of the lines, and this combined with the spot to drag attention too much to the left hand side of the picture.
I then tried to trace the trajectory of my eye in some of the pictures I took, as well as a couple of pictures in the public domain that I found in Flickr:
In the picture of the Grand Canyon to the left, my eye goes first to the moon, then to the sun-lit clouds on the top o the sky, and then comes back to canyon rocks at the bottom.
In this picture, my eye goes first to the centre of the bird’s eye, then to the nostril. It then moves to the bit of dust on top of its head. This spot, either rubbish on the animal’s head or a defect on the negative, is quite prominent given that is white on a black background, almost as prominent as the bird’s eye. I then move to the crest, but my eye quickly catches a spot on the top of the frame (dust on negative or print) and moves there, temporarily wandering off the frame, but it is pulled back again into it by the bird’s eye.
Picture 5, from above
In picture 5 of the ones taken for the exercise, the eye first travels to the bottle cap in the top corner, then moves to the centre of the frame, where the lines cross each other creating two junctions. The eye then moves back to the bottle cap to start the cycle again.
Picture 3, from above.
In picture 3, the eye again moves first to the bottle cap, then briefly moves to a small dark spot of dust on the bottom right and to the junction of the lines on the right hand side next to it. It then moves to the top right line junctions, but it is dragged again down by the converging lines and the bottle cap towards the lower left hand side of the picture, where the eye rests.
Some observations from the above:
- Spots are more powerful in grabbing the eye when they are in most contrast with their background.
- Spots just on the frame (barely on it, or touching the edges) tend to overpower the composition and can grab the eye too much.
- Balance seems to be more distorted when spots or prominent elements are displayed in the bottom left part of the frame.