When I am planning a composition, I am constantly thinking about leading the eye. How can I make sure that my viewer is noticing the most important elements in my image? How can I keep my viewer’s eye from jumping around in the frame. I use a collection of techniques to “lead the eye.” There are an infinite number of ways to do it, but here are a few of the techniques I use.
Leading Lines might be the most obvious way to lead the eye – and you shouldn’t ignore them. I am always looking for leading lines to help point my viewers in the right direction. But this certainly isn’t the only way to get your viewer to focus on your point of interest!
If you want your viewer to focus on something specific, why not let everything else go blurry? That’s what I’ve done with this shot of a frozen droplet hanging from a leaf. Your eye won’t rest for long on the smooth background simply because there isn’t much visual information to collect from that area of the image. Your eyes wants to focus on something – that’s what they do all day long, every day. It comes naturally to us – and I can use that basic human instinct to get your attention where I want it.
Contrast is an important part of photography – but I’m not just talking about tonal contrast. In this case, I’m using color contrast to point my viewer toward the red flowers that are the twin subjects in this image. Everything else in the image is green, so the red flowers stand out because they are different.
In this case, I’m leading your eye using contrast in size – and also tone. Most people focus their attention on the largest and brightest of these salt crystals. Why? Because that’s the one that stands out. But why does it stand out? Our minds are wired to notice differences and similarities in everything we see – we are masters at categorization. I deliberately chose this composition to include just one larger crystal.
But wait… there is actually another large crystal in this shot, but people rarely notice it unless they are looking carefully. Why not? It’s not as bright or as well-defined as the other large crystal at the bottom left. So, the largest and the brightest gets the most attention. I could include that second large crystal in my shot because it didn’t have the same visual impact as the one I chose as the point of interest.
Contrast again. You guessed it. But this time, we’re talking about contrast of form. Those stripes in the sandstone form a clearly defined pattern. The leaf, of the other hand, is an obvious break in the pattern – and so it gets your attention.
Consider these ideas as you work with your camera next time you are out shooting. How can you use composition, leading lines, and contrast to lead the eye of your viewer toward your point of interest? Do you have suggestions for leading the eye? Feel free to share!