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5.2 Visual Weight in Photography

The concept of visual weight is just as effective in composing a photograph as it is in designing an illustration. In fact, the there are even a few tools at a photographer’s disposal that designers wish were so effective in their field.

5.2 Visual Weight in Photography

Hello everybody, and welcome back to Basic Design Concepts for Photographers. This is lesson 5.2 where we talk about how the concept of visual weight applies to photography. Because this idea of visual weight borrows from so many other concepts, and because there's so many different things tied up into it that is it uses several of the different theories and ideas to create this idea of visual weight. There's a lot of over lap between photography and design. For instance the use of color and contrast to create visual weight like we see with this reddish orange boat on top of this blueish water here. Having the complementary colors like that also serves well to add to the visual weight. The use of size and position works just as well in photography as it does on the design side. In this image here the larger elephant, which I'm assuming to be the mother is clearly more of the center of attention. It has more visual weight, and physical weight, then the smaller baby elephant does. The concept of using whitespace in photography is very similar to its use in design, but its application is a little bit different. This composition of this woman walking past feels a little bit tight. It's not nearly as interesting as it could be. It seems kind of ordinary, but as the shot is backed up, and we have a whole lot more of this yellow wall behind her the visual interest or the visual weight of her figure is substantially increased. Now this counts as white space even though it's yellow and there's some texture to it. It's clearly a wall. It's not really empty space. It comes off, or reads visually as white space, because the subject of the photograph is this young lady walking by, and it's substantially different in content than that, and so therefore it reads as white space. There are certain elements in photography that are used to add visual weight that actually work better in photography than they do over in the design world, and one of those is a contrast in texture or surface. For example, the flower here is clearly the gravitational visual center of this image because it pulls focus from its surroundings easily. True, it has lot to do with the contrast and the complementary color that's being used, but added to it is the idea that it's very clearly a soft, delicate flower on a very hard, bricked surface. And that contrast in surface or texture is something that reads much better in photography than it does in design. Another tool photographers tend to have at their disposal for creating visual weight particularly one that illustrators and designers can't make as good a use of is the human form. In this image, the set of stairs is somewhat interesting because there's some neat textures to it, but once we see that there's people in there our eyes naturally gravitate towards them because we are social creatures and we tend to look for other humans in our line of sight. And as I mentioned this still does work in illustration and graphic design, but it's much more effective in photography. And even more powerful than the human form is the human face, and particularly the eyes. If there is a subject in your composition that makes eye contact with the camera it always draws focus, and therefore always carries one of the most substantial visual weights of any element that you can use. Likewise, a similar phenomenon is the use of text. In this image, this word Plymouth really draws attention. Now what's interesting about that is because it's rare to find a lot of text being used in photography, and as literate creatures we have trained our minds to look for words that we can recognize. So whenever some falls into our field of view we immediately focus on it. This is an advantage that lies with photography mostly because text isn't a common element in photography, whereas with illustration and really with graphic design text is almost always present. So photographers can make great use of this by simply including a little line of text to add visual weight. And finally, one the techniques that heavily favors photography over any type of illustration or graphic design is the use of depth of field. In this image here, these beads of water that are in focus immediately have more visual weight, and demand attention as opposed to the ones that are blurry or out of focus. This can be simulated in illustration, but it's never done quite as well as we see it done in photography. Using visual weight is one of those design concepts that can incorporate several of the other concepts in it, or can kind of stand on its own using its own properties. And I think we've seen some of that in both design, illustration, and in photography. Our next lesson, lesson 5.3 we talk about the photo assignment for visual weight.

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