Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Positioning a point

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Take three photographs in which there is a single point, placed in a different part of the frame in each example.  Justify the reason for the positioning in a short note to accompany each photo. Consider the graphic relationship the point has with the frame in each instance, particularly with regard to movement and division.


Canon EOS 650D with EF 18-200mm f/3.5 lens; Leica X1 24mm.


1. Centre point: Pigeon.



I took several shots of this  pigeon, some where it was stretching its legs, some where it was flapping its wings. In those shots it was more natural to me to position it off-centre to give the impression of movement. However, when it was sat down still like this, the central positioning seemed to work better. It gives a feeling of solidity and restfulness; a very static composition, but deliberately so.


2. Off-centre point: Boat.



For this image a central positioning would have rendered it far too static. The chosen composition places the boat off centre in both horizontal and vertical planes, giving it the space above and to the right into which to move. The diagonal angle of the boat accentuates the implied movement. The frame is visually divided into the portion that the boat has come from and the portion to which it is moving.


3. Edge point: Couple.



Whilst a point close to the edge of the frame isn’t particularly common, after a while I did find what I believe to be an appropriate use of the technique. In this instance the scene initially looks like a calm seascape, with the three layers of sky, sea and beach. The positioning of the couple (treated as a single point here, as they helpfully wore the same colour clothes) is such that it comes at the end of the viewer’s natural reading of the image, and provides an unexpected ‘full stop’ to the picture, changing its nature. The overall frame is naturally divided into the three horizontal layers, albeit with a deliberate interruption at the end.


What I’ve learned:

At first this seemed to be similar to the Part One exercise on objects in different positions in the frame. However, on closer analysis this seemed to be more about finding three different subjects that each illustrated a correct use of the three main positioning options. I’ve become aware of the extent to which the positioning of specific elements can change the nature of an image, change how it is read and perceived. This is another layer of compositional knowledge that I will need to take into account when taking pictures. It’s increasingly clear to me that the photographer can to a large degree control the intended message of – or at the very least guide the viewer’s response to – an image. It’s becoming more evident why certain photographs ‘work’ and others don’t, which was one of my stated aims when starting the course. So I’m pleased with that.


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