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“The Law of Common Fate”. A Concept in the Psychology of Gestalt

In my online class I teach with the PPSOP, and with my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I take around the globe, I demonstrate the importance of using the concepts of Gestalt in taking our photography “Up a Notch”, and one of the concepts is called the “Law of Common Fate”.

This is a fairly simple concept, which basically refers to “visual direction” within a photograph.

For example, if you have two or people moving in the same direction, you’ve created a directional line, and this line is known as the “Law of Common Fate”. Together they have a common destiny, and they become the dominant theme in a photograph; they’re also perceived as one unit.

You’re making the viewer become an active participant in your photography because you’re leading his eyes around the frame, having him follow the path of the two people.

It’s a good idea (but not necessary) to put a message at the point of their final destination. If you place these two people in such a way that they’re leaving the frame, you’re generating Tension. You’re implying “content outside of the frame”, and now you’re making the viewer wonder where they are going.

For another example of this, see my post about shooting at the Getty Center.

You can also have similar shapes moving in one direction, and these directional Lines also become dominant in your composition.

Again, the importance here is to take control of what the viewer sees and perceives when looking at our photos. It’s especially important if you have these lines leaving and entering the frame. The more ways you can get the viewer to enter and leave the frame the more time he’ll spend looking at your picture.

Isn’t that a very good thing?


Here’s a few examples:

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