Exercise 1.2 Point
There are essentially three classes of position [to place a single
point]: in the middle, a little off-centre, and close to the edge.
(Photography 1: The Art of Photography, p.72)
1. Take two or three photographs in which a single point is placed in different parts
of the frame. (A ‘point’ should be small in relationship to the frame; if it’s too large
it becomes a shape.)
How can you evaluate the pictures? How do you know whether you’ve got it
right or not? Is there a right place and a wrong place for the point? For the sake
of argument, let’s say that the right place shouldn’t be too obvious and that
the point should be clear and easy to see. As there’s now a ‘logic’ to it, you can
evaluate your composition according to the logic of the point.
As you look at the pictures you might find that you’re also evaluating the
position of the point by its relationship to the frame.
2. Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.
Can you find any place where the point is not in relationship to the frame? If it’s
in relationship to the frame you can place a point in any part of the picture and
the picture is balanced.
You could think about the two parts of this exercise in a different way, as ‘test
pictures’ versus ‘real pictures’. The only purpose for the test pictures is the
exercise: you can analyse them according to the criteria and get the expected
answer. But ‘real’ pictures are not so easy to analyse. What are the criteria for
‘relationship’? (We’re hoping that you’ll shoot the rest of the exercises in this
course as real pictures, not test pictures!)
As you review your photographs, observe the way your eye ‘scans’ the surface of the
image. Note how:
• a point attracts attention out of proportion to its size
• the eye looks for connections between two points
• placing a point close to the edge seems to animate both the point and the frame.
Print out two or three of your point photographs and trace the route your eye takes
over the surface with a pencil. Then try the same with a selection of photographs
from newspapers or magazines (or the example above). You should notice that each
photograph seems to have its own tempo. Add the traced photographs to your
learning log together with brief observations.
While this image is balanced in terms of the point’s relationship to the frame, according to the rule of thirds, the image itself is not good. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the point, and the point alone. There is no suggestion of movement, or life.
If I were to imagine this as a picture or scene… I see little more than a bullseye.
In this image, the positioning of the point conforms to the rule of thirds. The feel of the image is vastly different.
Speaking entirely for myself, I can imagine many scenes or stories, projected as backdrops to this image. The point is a sheep in a field, and up just a little way is a fence, and a horizon with a warm sunset. Trees on the horizon start just right of the centre, and run upwards and further right, where they are cut off by the frame.
Alternatively, I see a child alongside a river (possibly fishing), the course of the river running from the upper left to the lower right of the frame.
The possibilities are endless.
This image does not conform to the rule of thirds. It is unbalanced. If I could describe the mental sensation it creates within me, the nearest thing would be an uncomfortable lurch, or feeling of tripping over.
Compositionally, as a balanced image, it could be said that the positioning of this point is wrong.
Wrong in terms of what? Is your intention to take a pretty photo to sell on a postcard, or are you trying to make art? Art is challenging. It has a message. It makes you feel something more than just “oh… that’s pretty”.
Let me put it to you like this….
… or like this…
The rule of thirds has a purpose. It is a tool, for making balanced images that are easy on the eye.
An image does not have to be easy on the eye to be good, so there are occasions when the correct way to use the toolkit is to toss it out of the window.
First, I have to say the wording of this question strikes me (and others, if the forums are anything to go by) as utter gibberish.
It seems to me that if a point appears within the frame, then it has a relationship with that frame. It’s only if it falls outside of the frame that it ceases to have a relationship, but then it also ceases to be in the image, and the question becomes moot.
It may be that I’m taking the question too literally, and am missing the point. On the other hand, if the questioner means to ask about whether the point conforms to the rule of thirds, or some other rule, they really should be asking that, and not this vague jumble of words.
Anyway… to show willing, and while having no clue if this is what was being asked for, I took these images.
I can see this image appealing to a young child, but to me… not so much.
My eye is drawn directly to the centre, and hovers around there before grudgingly looking around for other points of interest. The central point dominates, and in doing so, lessens the impact or interest of everything else in the image.
Frankly, I want to flick the teddy out of the photo, because it annoys me. (Sorry, the wording of the question has left me feeling grumpy).
This is much more pleasing, though unfortunately, it does look like the lamp is growing out of the teddy’s head. There being other minor points of interest in the image, this shot feels slightly over weighted to the right.
The weighting is demonstrated by how much more time my eyes look over the items on that side of the image.
I really like this.
The sofa invites the eye to enjoy it’s comfortable warmth, and then you see this little chap, chirpy and happy, suggesting you to sit, so he can whisper in your ear. Your eyes then cast around, seeking more details, letting them tell the story of the room, or the people who live there.
It seems to me that the position of the point in relation to the frame matters far less than its position in relation to whatever else is in the image.
Having said that, placing the point in the centre seems always to be wrong. I spent quite some time experimenting, trying to find a composition, with the teddy in the centre, that didn’t look wrong. I failed.
Ultimately, I think I may often continue to do what I have always done… ignore any set of rules, and go with what looks right to my eye.
This being my own personal, and to be honest, somewhat emotional first reaction to this exercise, I feel the need for further reading on the matter. Several books from the essential reading list are on order and may enlighten me on the subject.