How to guide readers’ vision in photos

Photography is a visual language. For a good photographic work, the reader’s vision must be controlled by the subject and the point of interest, rather than being attracted by other sundries unrelated to the theme.

In today’s tutorial, Thomas will talk in detail about the pre and post methods that photographers have to guide readers’ vision in photos.

Contrast guidance

In life, people and things that stand out are always different. Similarly, in photographic works, those elements that have obvious contrast with other areas of the screen will also attract special attention of the readers.

In a work with overall dark tone, the bright places in the picture are particularly prominent.

For example, Patagonia in the following Max Rive lens has low brightness because it was shot at night. The right shooting time makes the distant Roy Peak illuminated by moonlight, which is much brighter than other places in the picture.

Later, through further deepening and lightening, the contrast of brightness is used to guide the readers’ attention. I believe that when you first see this work, you will also immediately notice the bright main peak.

Photography: Max Rive

Light objects are more prominent in dark photos. In the same way, a piece of work with overall bright tone, the finishing touch is the dark objects in the picture.

For example, in the following high brightness snow photo, the most eye-catching person in the picture is the three people with low brightness.

In addition to the contrast between light and shade, there is an important contrast hidden in this picture, that is, the contrast between man and nature. Through thousands of years of evolution of natural selection, human beings have developed a pair of eyes to distinguish living creatures from the natural world. A picture with people in it will attract a lot of attention through the contrast between people and nature.

Photographer: Thomas

In addition to light and dark, there is also a brightness attribute called contrast. In a work with low overall contrast, those places with high contrast are the focus of the reader.

For example, in the following figure, the junction of the aurora and the mountain silhouette is the place with the highest contrast and the visual center of the whole picture.

Photography: Max Rive

All attributes that can form contrast can be used to guide the viewer’s vision, highlight the subject and make the finishing point.

For example, in the figure below, the warm yellow light of the street forms a sharp contrast with the cold blue tone in the rainy evening, which catches the eyes of the readers and makes the photos more expressive.

Photographer: Thomas

A common mistake made by novice photographers is that the whole picture is of high sharpness, high definition and HDR like, full of various details. A picture full of details is equal to no details, because these details conflict with each other and compete for the reader’s valuable attention. A good work often strengthens the clear texture of the points of interest and weakens the detailed texture of other areas of the picture.

For example, in the figure below, I have done a lot of texture highlighting and detail sharpening only on the clouds and rocks that are illuminated by light, and I have kept still in other places, even reduced the clarity and contrast. In this way, the reader’s attention naturally focuses on the part of the rock with the most details.

Photographer: Thomas

Guide line guidance

Readers’ eyes will habitually move along the lines in the picture. Therefore, if we can take some natural lines in the early stage of shooting, or artificially strengthen some lines in the post processing to point to our main body. These lines become excellent guides.

Photography: Max Rive

For example, in this photo of Max Rive, the river flowing to the distance is used as the guide line to lead the reader’s eyes to the distant snow mountain.

The lines formed by paths, rivers, plants and trees in nature are excellent guide lines. For example, in the figure below, Shi Yanbing, a photographer of Jiying AX, uses rocks as the natural guide line.

Photographer: Shi Yanbing

In addition to those obvious lines, the guiding lines can also be those implicit guiding relationships. Such as light, people’s eyes, and the direction of people’s fingers.

In the figure below, the reader’s sight will move towards the distant scenery along the direction of the finger.

Photography: Max Rive

Although the light is not an obvious line, it also has a strong guiding ability. In a photo with a light source, those parts that are illuminated by the light will gain the reader’s extra attention.

Photographer: Thomas

In the following picture, there are two guide lines pointing to the mountain peak. Can you see which two are?

Photographer: Thomas

One is the eye of the hiker, and the other is the light pouring down, which leads the reader to the mountains with strange shapes.

Frame composition guidance

The frame composition can limit the reader’s sight to the middle of the picture frame, thus forcing the reader to pay attention to the subject in the picture frame.

Photography: Max Rive

Max Rive is a master of frame composition. The distorted trees under the wide-angle lens not only become a foreground full of visual tension, but also serve as a picture frame to limit the reader’s line of sight and not stray out of the picture.

Photography: Max Rive

The picture frame is ubiquitous in the nature, which requires us to find and search carefully.

Photographer: Pan Weihao

Even the rapidly changing clouds and fogs can sometimes have the effect of a picture frame.

Photographer: Thomas

Comprehensive guidance

A good work with clear subject and prominent interest points often uses the above mentioned guidance techniques at the same time.

Photography: Max Rive

In the above work, frame composition and contrast between light and shade, cold and warm are used at the same time to highlight the small mountains in the distance.

Photography: Max Rive

In the above work, the contrast between light and dark, the contrast between cold and warm, the guide line (river, branch), and the frame composition (tree) are all used. The full score work of 500px really deserves its reputation.

In the following excellent photo, in addition to cold and warm, light and shade contrast, as many as 3 guide lines are used. It includes a guide line formed in the later stage by increasing the saturation of some shrubs on the left, a curve formed by the middle river, and the line of sight of backpackers on the right.

Photography: Max Rive

In a word, the reasonable application of contrast, guide line and frame composition to guide readers’ vision to the points of interest in photos will make our photographic works more excellent.