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Design interest

The ordinary becomes interesting through design


Design consideration should be part of every picture you take
Design consideration should be part of every picture you take

ADD AN ELEMENT TO CREATE DESIGN INTEREST

A reflection in a mirror or a view through the opening in another object can do wonders for a picture. Make objects in the foreground work for you. An overhanging branch, an archway or a window in the foreground will provide your image with depth and serve to graphically frame your subject, directing attention to the center of interest.

Include a foreground object to provide a sense of scale or to block out something you may not want in the image.

Foreground details can be used to contain the viewer’s attention, like a picture frame does, keeping the eye from straying beyond the image’s border. Such a foreground frame should relate to the theme of your subject – for example, a wedding arch for a bridal couple - placing the center of interest in context, relating it to the event itself, and adding depth to your image.


EMPLOY THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD DESIGN

When you set out to take a picture, you should want to do more than simply record a scene. Anyone can do that by simply clicking the shutter from any angle. Your image should also have design appeal, regardless of whether the subject is a common one or you are photographing an unusual and beautiful scene.

The most common, ordinary setting can take on a new look of interest when you give it design consideration before you shoot.

The diving board in the foreground draws the viewer into the scene and points to the center of interest
The diving board in the foreground draws the viewer into the scene and points to the center of interest

A foreground object adds scale and substance to an otherwise bare scene
A foreground object adds scale and substance to an otherwise bare scene

Take a moment to analyze the scene. Perform three different sorts of exploration.

  • Examine your thoughts and feelings about the subject - what it means to you.
  • Examine all the visual elements, and look for those that will convey your sense of the meaning in the best way.
  • Then, consider various ways in which the visual elements can be arranged in the viewfinder so the meaning of the picture can be made evident to its viewers.


Change your viewpoint until you find an angle that suits your sense of design. Try several different viewpoints if you are not sure that your image will be well-designed.

Consider the placement of the elements in your viewfinder. Apply the Rule of Thirds when you do. Look at the shapes you are presented with, and consider how to balance them with the other elements in your picture.

Consider the two black-and-white images on this page showing an everyday street activity - traffic sign installers working in elevated buckets. The first image (on the right) lacks appeal and interest. It is really nothing more than a snapshot, taken quickly without much thought on arrival at the scene. But, the second image (below) was shot after taking design consideration into account. You will notice the improvement. This picture has interest and appeal.

Yours can, too, if you take that little extra trouble to employ the principles of good design in all your pictures.

This ordinary scene contains some interesting elements, but they have not been presented in an interesting way.  The picture lacks a sense of design.
This ordinary scene contains some interesting elements, but they have not been presented in an interesting way. The picture lacks a sense of design.

By moving in closer and selecting a different point of view, the elements of the scene can be rearranged to give the image drama with a much more interesting design.
By moving in closer and selecting a different point of view, the elements of the scene can be rearranged to give the image drama with a much more interesting design.

DON'T EXPECT TOO MUCH RIGHT OFF THE BAT

Don't worry if you don't see an immediate improvement in all your pictures. A good sense of design sometimes can take a while to develop and mature.

EXPERIENCE LEADS TO IMPROVEMENT

Take a good hard objective look at your finished pictures. Try to see them as others do. Ask your friends, particularly those who may be artists, decorators or who otherwise have a good sense of design, to evaluate your images with you.


Look in magazines and photography books to see how others have treated the same subjects you photograph. Then, put what you learn at each step into practice on your next shoot.

The experience you gain from implementing big and little changes, and evaluating your pictures before shooting out again, will eventually begin to pay off. Before long, you will begin to use design principles for all your photography, and the process will become intuitive when you shoot.

The design itself is the subject in this simple scene of a  duck paddling through the reflection of sailboat masts.
The design itself is the subject in this simple scene of a duck paddling through the reflection of sailboat masts.
Related topics...

Design Principles

Design exercise

Design Techniques