This photo wouldn't have been a keeper anyway, because the top of the flower isn't as sharp as I'd have liked.

enter image description here

However, something really bothers me.
It somehow feels like the flower is looking out of frame & that blows the composition apart. I didn't notice it when I was setting up the shot, only when I got it onto the computer. When I was composing it I was imagining the bud behind would draw the eye back towards the centre, but it doesn't.

I can't ask, 'does this bother anyone else?', as that's getting too far towards opinion, & also 'can an inanimate object 'look'?' feels a bit like it needs a psychologist to answer, though maybe many aspects of photography are psychological.

So perhaps - Can an inanimate object be perceived in the same way as a human subject, in terms of how it guides the eye towards other important aspects of a picture or, intentionally or otherwise, distract by 'looking out of the frame'?

For anybody wondering about the details -
it's a 5-layer focus-stack 1/125s 135mm f.4.5 on 68mm extension tube.
Subject is under 10mm wide. My DoF is maybe 0.5mm at a guess, the difference in distance to camera from stamen to petals is maybe 2mm. The bud to the right is maybe 10mm behind the flower.
If a car comes past the house I get motion blur.
I tend to capture these as fast as I possibly can & check back later - these particular flowers can wilt so fast that they droop out of frame whilst the stack is being shot.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking if non-animal objects, such as anything with leading lines, or anything subject to pareidolia, appear to "face" in a direction? I give you an A for effort to create an interesting non-formula question, but it seems to me the answers are "yes", "no", or "opinion-based". =) \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ My brain just wants to ask "why the hell does this look weird?" but I was trying hard to get an actual answerable question in good SE-style. I'm not sure I succeeded ;) It just feels like if I'd leaned the flower in a few degrees it would have worked. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 18:13
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think the extent to which we refer to objects as "facing" a direction is a pretty good indicator that we might see them that way for purposes of image composition. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 10, 2017 at 7:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possibly what you're reacting to is the observable depth of the flower that's in focus. If you'd used a longer focal length lens, the flower would be "flattened" more -- but probably you'd lose the ability to keep the background blurred. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 10, 2017 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I added shot details to my question - too much to put in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 12:14

3 Answers 3


I think any object with a "face" (flower, building, car) can be perceived as "looking" outside the frame and should follow the same rules of composition as a human subject. Except of course when you want to break the rules.


What bothers me a bit is that the lower part of the flower is very close to the border of the frame. I usually avoid putting anything interesting that close. That, plus the fact that the pistil of the flower is slightly oriented towards the bottom (even though it's mostly towards the left) is probably the reason for what you call "Looking out of the frame".

The bud in the background is distraction to me. It should either be completely blurred (or hidden), or sharp enough to be part of the center of attention, but here it's contrasty enough to catch one's attention, but not sharp enough to get something interesting.

Just my 2 cents, all this is highly subjective ...


I agree with Matthieu Moy's answer. But for a different perspective (pun), I'm going to argue that it doesn't look weird at all, that it actually looks correct.

For overhead shots, vertical objects appear to lean towards the edge of the frame, with the amount of "lean" increasing the further the object is from the center of the frame. If every vertical object pointed at the lens, then either the distance to the subject is much much greater than the focal length, or the objects aren't actually all perpendicular (they're actually "looking" at the camera).

Now, this isn't necessarily a vertical shot, but the pistil "leaning" out of the frame implies an orthogonal-ish viewpoint in a real-world view (as opposed to the pure orthogonal view of mechanical / architectural drawings). Again, it reminds me of the view from a drone looking straight down (but with substantially different depth of field and subject placement):

Aerial View of Bridge and Trees, by Mark Basarab
Aerial View of Bridge and Trees, by Mark Basarab. CC0 / Public Domain


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