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Personal Pearls of Wisdom: Tension gets your attention

Does it draw you in?

Does it draw you in?

Why do we look at some photos more than others? What compels us to stick around longer for some and not for others? How we can control what the viewer perceives and processes when looking at our photos? The answer will differ and the different methods we use will vary. For me, the important part is to draw the viewer into your photo.

I teach an online class with the BPSOP, and I also conduct my “Stretching your frame of Mind” workshops around our planet. I teach people how to use the elements of visual design to create stronger images.

I discuss how humans rely on the perception of their environment and that visual input is a part of our everyday life. If we can present this information (photographically) in such a way we can make him a visual partner, an active participant, and when we do we’ll have his undivided attention.

Our eye is constantly moving around and notices elements in out photos that stand out, and for one reason or another are significant. An example is the fact that the eye is drawn to light; like a moth to a flame.

One of the best ways to do this is by incorporating visual tension, a compositional tool,  into our imagery. Visual tension gives your photograph strength and intensity. Tension equals energy, and it’s a psychological force to be reckoned with and used correctly can take your photography what I refer to as “up a notch”.

They’re many ways to create visual tension, and I have talked a lot about them to my fellow photographer. The use of light, contrast, i.e.,  shadows and areas in shadow, framing within a frame, combining opposites or unrelated objects, peak of action, body language and gestures, showing the subject and its reflection are some of the ways.

The way we place the elements, and creating design imbalance giving off the feeling of instability, will generate visual tension. Where we pace the camera in relation to the viewer will have an impact on the viewer and will help generate the tension we’re looking for. Conversely, the placement of the subject in the frame will have an acute effect as well. Using the Rule of Thirds to place your subject will NOT create the visual tension as placing it close to the edge of the frame would.

So, I don’t know about you, but I like attention when it comes to people looking at my photos. I want them to walk away shaking their heads in amazement after being totally immersed in my imagery. If indeed you feel the same way, then think about incorporating visual tension into your photography.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime and we’ll create some visual tension together.

Keep sending me photos and questions to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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    { 2 comments… add one }
    • Skip Duemeland December 31, 2016, 12:12 am

      Joe is a unique instructor, the only instructor in all of BSOP that I keep coming back to his Blog twice a week. His special method of telling us what is important is very special. This week his example of Tension is outstanding. You can try to copy his method, but it is very hard. You always can learn something. My camera had dust on the low pass filter, and never did focus right. I paid over $1000 to fix it. I subsequently bought a Fujifilm X-T2 mirror less that electronically focuses for me and is an outstanding camera. Thanks so much for the training in your class. Keep up the good work Joe. From Skip Duemeland, a past student.

      • Joe December 31, 2016, 3:56 pm

        Thanks Skip.


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