Food For Digital Thought: How Westerners Perceive.

by Joe on February 5, 2013

in Food for Digital Thought

In the comfort zone.

In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, I tell my fellow photographers that Westerners were taught to read from left to right. As a result, we look at photographs from the left to right and we usually start in the lower left corner and work our way to the top right. Now I realize that there are always exceptions, but for the most part, this is how we perceive. It’s our comfort zone and it’s how I usually design my composition. Btw, when we can get the viewer to look at a vertical, he’s going to take more time going from the bottom of the frame to the top. This additional time will take more energy, and Energy=Tension. That’s why Verticals have more energy than a horizontal.This certainly doesn’t mean to shoot only verticals; just remember to always shoot both ways.

This is part of the Theory of Gestalt where we take control of what the viewer perceives and processes and lead him comfortably around our composition.

In the above photo, I’ve maintained that comfort zone by having the viewer follow the directional lines of the road, and the pipeline from the left to the right. However, when I flip the photo the other way, it feels awkward and has taken the viewer out of his zone. It doesn’t have the same flow as it did when perceived from left to right.

Flipped and out of the comfort zone.

This is not to say that it can’t be a good thing to take the viewer where he’s not comfortable. There are many times where I like to do just that. Remember what Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good pictures, just good pictures. Try it next time you’re out shooting. Try one where the flow is from left to right, then flip it and see the difference.

Visit my website at: and check out my 2013 workshop schedule at the top of this Blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

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