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Food For digital Thought: The Power of an Arrow

Visual tension at work

I’ve talked a lot about the psychology of Gestalt to both my online classes with the BPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct all over the planet. It’s about controlling what the viewer perceives and processes when looking at our photos.

One of the six concepts I discuss is “The Law of Common Fate”. This concept is about moving two or more people (in the same direction) across the frame. The viewer seems that as one unit and sharing a common destiny.

It’s all about visual direction, and by doing so, you’re making the viewer an active participant in your photos.

An arrow pointing in a direction will take control and the viewer…no matter how hard he tries…will look in the direction that it’s pointing. An arrow pointing in the opposite direction as your subject, will generate visual tension; because the viewer will not see it as part of your “directional whole”

The above photo was taken during one of my Stretching Your Frame of Mind workshops. My subject was a man that had taken my online class with the BPSOP and was now shooting with me.

To show the workshop class the power of an arrow, I had him walk in the opposite direction the arrow was pointing. This not only created visual tension, but the viewer will immediately look in the direction of the arrow (which will create even more visual tension) and disregarding the subject.

An implied arrow

Whenever I see an arrow, or an implied arrow (an arrow made up of various elements), I immediately try to figure out a way to incorporate it into my photo. That said, if the photographer looks with only the left side of the brain he won’t see the arrow. It only works when the right side of the brain is being used.

The importance of an arrow

So, my fellow photographers, the next time you see an arrow and you have an opportunity to include it in your composition, you be glad you did.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me some time. Next February in conjunction with the Santa Fe Workshops, I’ll be returning to Cuba for the fourth time. My next springtime workshop will Berlin next May; an incredibly beautiful city.

Send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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