Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Do Reading Patterns Corrolate to Viewing Patterns?

Sometimes, I just think about stuff. Stuff that, in the grand scheme of things, isn't of too much importance.

I read a short article on F-Shaped reading patterns today.

The article got me to thinking.

About photography.

As photographers, we know that most viewers' eyes are drawn to the brightest areas of an image. We also know that if those bright areas aren't areas we'd prefer to draw our viewer's eyes to, those bright areas can often be labeled as "distracting."

Most of us are also aware that compositional (and other techniques) can lead the viewers' eyes to where we want them to go. Things like lines (especially diagonal lines), shapes, forms, textures, patterns, and color, i.e., all the Six Elements of Design, can be used to lead viewer's to where we want them to go: To go with their eyes as well as their minds. (I shoot a lot of stuff where it's pretty obvious where I'm leading viewers' minds. Just sayin.)

Other techniques, things like perspective and depth of focus, are powerful techniques for sucking viewer's in to aspects or portions of an image we want to suck them into.

Now, I'm wondering if the notion of reading patterns can also be integrated into the compositional elements of a photograph? Sure, it might be subtle. But subtlety often wields great power, especially in art.

I'm not suggesting tossing out "S" curves (in posing glam models) in favor of "F" curves. (Not that there are curves in Fs.) I am wondering if the F-Shaped reading pattern concept can be applied to composition?

Let's see... How could that be accomplished?

Well, if we hook up "F" patterns with the Rule of Thirds, it might suggest that certain parts of an image, that is, the spatial areas created by dividing an image into 9 equal parts, plus the lines and intersections used when dividing an image per the Rule of Thirds, might be used in ways to exploit those "F" shaped reading patterns?

Am I thinking too hard here?

If you look at the eye-tracking examples in the three images shown in the link I provided above, you might see how using reading patterns might (and I strongly use the word "might") be used in the composition of a photographic image.

It might also suggest that going against placing important elements that somehow form an "F" pattern could create more tension in a photo, albeit subtle tension. Or, it could simply add subtle nuances that increase appreciation for an image.

All this probably sounds like I'm taking "details" to a new high. (Or low, depending how you perceive it.) But then, the devil is in the details... and so is your best work!

I should also add I'm not advocating purely geometric approaches to photographic composition even if geometry can often be your friend. I'm also not suggesting photographers engage in artistic paralysis through analysis.

Okay. Now my brain hurts.

The pretty girl at the top, void of any "F" shaped reading pattern, is Penthouse Pet, Shawna Lenee.


The Mgmt. said...

Isn't the rule of thirds the photographic equivalent of the F-pattern? Between that and brightness, I think you've nailed the big two....Although I have noticed that portraits where the person is looking left have a much different feel than portraits where the person is looking to the right.

Mind Hacks (I think) had an article some time ago that found that men looked at the crotches of whatever it was they were shown a picture of, assuming it had a crotch.

Although I'm drawing a blank on specifics right now, Scott McCloud's books Understanding Comics and Making Comics go into great detail on composition. Although not all of it is applicable to photographers, much of it is and it's a great read besides.

jimmyd said...

@The Mgmnt:

Not sure if the RoT is the equivalent of the F-Pattern but RoT can certainly be employed to create an F-Pattern that may subtly enhance an image. Leastwise, from the perspective of where the viewer's eyes, focus, and concentration might be led. Thanks for the head's up on the McCloud book! Might have to check that out.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the photo above does have an F-Pattern in it. In this particular case the F might be backwards but the shape of her right arm, breasts, and stomach form a mirror image of the f-patterns shown in the pictures linked in the post. Here I was looking at the photo thinking that was why that photo was used with this post.