Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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When I showed this photo to my friend he mentioned that the flower in the center of the photo got his attention. Although I placed it in the center of the photo, I believe that it's not the only main object in the photo. I like the leaves in the foreground too, I like the balance between the green color in the foreground and background. But my friend didn't mention anything about it, so I wonder is it wrong to place the flower in the center like that? maybe if I moved it to the right a little bit and include more leaves in the left would create a more balanced photo?

image

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I notice you've posted this photo in the Adobe RGB color space. This will not display correctly in most people's web browsers (or indeed on most people's monitors). You should convert to sRGB for the web. –  mattdm Mar 8 '12 at 16:31
    
+1 Thanks for this info –  akram Mar 9 '12 at 15:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The flower in the centre does attract the eye, but not because it's in the center, in my opinion, but rather because:

  • it's in focus more than anything else
  • it's brighter than anything else
  • it's higher in the frame, above everything else, and contrasting against a dark background

I think the above is fairly factual. When you ask about improving the composition, well that's going to be more subjective. I think you could probably improve the composition, but I don't think there's particularly anything wrong with the flower being centered

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+1 - I was about to write the same 3 points as to why the eye is drawn towards the flower in the middle. –  Pete Mar 8 '12 at 9:48

In this specific example, the object in the center gets the attention, but not because it's in the center. It gets attention because it is in sharp focus relative to other objects in the scene, and because it contrasts with the background. Those are 2 major ways to draw attention to a subject. If it were in the lower-left corner, it would still get the attention for those reasons (unless you had something else that was also in similar sharp focus and/or with similar contrast to the background).

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maybe if I moved it to the right a little bit and include more leaves in the left would create a more balanced photo?

Did you have more space on your memory card? Why not experiment and try all kinds of different compositions then see what works best.

I wonder is it wrong to place the flower in the center like that?

No it is not wrong. There are no rules pertaining to where you should place the main object/subject. If enough surrounding elements enhances the composition then sometimes placing the object in the middle is the only solution.

The reason your friend immediately identified the flower is because, as others have mentioned, it's the brightest part of the photograph. This does not mean it's a great or compelling composition. This is just how our eyes work. They are drawn to the brightest part of the image.

In the image above, you have blown out the highlights on the flower, next time try to defuse the light falling on the flower. If you don't have any light modifiers, try using white shirt and place the flower in the shade. For some creative ideas, use white foam board to reflect the light from underneath or at an angle. This will give the flower a 3-dimensional look! Here's my pathetic attempt at using windows paint at work to illustrate what I mean:

sketch of suggested setup

Hope that helps.

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Yes, a centered object gets attention.

Actually, according photography books, it gets too much attention which is why center compositions are usually perceived as static. This does not make it wrong, but is something you have to be aware of.

What happens is that a central object is so easy to notice that viewers tend to explore less the rest of the image since things around are given the same spatial weight. With a rule-of-thirds composition, for example, one side of the main subject is bigger and invites more exploration.

Note that this kind of statements are very general and you can always shift view attention by providing other attention grabbing clues like bright colors, eyes, people, etc.

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This question is highly related to this other one: What is a point of interest in a photograph and where is it lacking in this candle picture? Your photo here does not really have a natural point of interest other than the bright splotch of color in the middle, so that's where attention goes.

In addition to the bright color and central position, it's more in focus than the rest of the image, which discourages exploration of the other parts. The word "focus" has two meanings: first, the convergence of rays of light (making a sharp subject), and second, the center of attention. It's not really a coincidence that we use the same term for both. But the pink petals aren't really all in focus either, leaving me unsure of what you're trying to say.

If you would like to emphasize the color over form, you might try an abstract composition with more blur across the entire frame. Or, you might go the other way and try for more depth of field so all of the pink flower is in focus, and more of the branch. It may be hard to get the background smoothly blurred in that case; you may want to try different focal lengths and camera position.

As an exercise, I suggest trying several different crops of this existing image to see how they change the meaning, both to you and to your friend. Personally, I think the most interesting thing going on in this image are the blurred twigs and orange flowers diagonally to the lower-right of the pink flower. I might choose a crop to draw out that detail:

crop of original photo

This also de-emphasizes the out-of-focus areas of the pink flower, by pushing it to the edge and making it large enough in the frame that it looks like a multi-part object which one wouldn't necessarily expect to be entirely in focus.

But this is my interpretation. It does not emphasize the interplay of shades of green that you say you find interesting. Try to find what brings out that meaning.

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