Monday, September 28, 2009

"Reading" a Photograph

Here's the follow up to my previous post, "Faster and Harder?"

It was simply an exercise (not a scientific test) to get you to think about the direction of movement in a picture - and the feel of a photograph. Some of you chose the top photo, others chose the bottom photo. Many of you elaborated on why you chose one over the other. Cool.

The idea for the post was generated after reading a chapter in my favorite book, Perception and Imaging - Photography, A Way of Seeing, by Dr. Richard Zakia.

In his book, Dr. Zakia quotes Rudolf Arnheim: "Since a picture is 'read' from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort."

Well, the photos in my original post were not generated from the same image so, again, the fun exercise was not scientific.

Compare these two images, and ask yourself if you feel as though the rider in one image is working harder than the other.

At this point, the power of suggestion plays into your decision, too :-)

Finally, and this is important, rather than ask yourself how a picture was taken (f/stop, shutter speed, etc.) ask yourself how a picture makes you feel.

Thank you all for playing along.

Explore the Light,


klompje said...

Interesting tests.
In your previous blog the bottom image had both movement from left to right and from right to left (the ones in front making the turn)

In your new post I would say in the top picture the horse was just "landing" in the water, while in the bottom one it looks like it is just leaping out of it.

Noel MacDonald said...

I'm always interested in how images read. There's a big cultural component to this. Vancouver, where I live, has a really vibrant and varied immigrant population. Photos from folk that read right to left, Iran and Japan jump to mind, are often composed right to left. It takes a bit to "get what's going on" but it's a great exercise in pushing your brain to see another part of the image. And then use that exercised muscle to create better images.
Thanks for reminding me to look at my stuff from a different angle.

Vincent Inaki said...

David duChemin talked about this in the Within the frame Podcast (episode 17, where he discussed my image!)

Here's the link:

Carolyn Fox said...

In the Mongolian image, the riders in the bottom photo seem to be working a little harder, but I think part of that is due to the intensity of the top photo. In the other set of photos, I think both riders seem to be having a good time & the pics take me back to my horseback riding days. Great times! I'm not sure what these answers say about me, but I'm sharing them anyway. Great pics, Rick!

Ed Cooley said...

I really like this image. The original is the left to right, isn't it.

Perhaps the more appropriate question would be which version do you prefer as a viewer.

Melissa Brown said...

On first glance, it much prefer the top picture. Although they are much the same I find that it is much more pleasing to the eye and more natural looking. Great job to get us thinking. Love the blog, keep up the good work! By the way do you every make it to Canada! Mainly the Beautiful B.C.? Love to take a workshop......

MattDoc said...

I must be able to read images ambidextrously. :) I don't get a different feeling from them because I can tell they are the same image.

Fonzo said...

I agree with "klompje."

The top picture definitely feels like the rider is coming down into the water while the bottom picture seems like the rider is rising up out of the water.


Anonymous said...

The top photo seems wrong. Holding the reins with the right hand, where I would hold them in the left hand like the bottom photo. It looks like the bottom photo is riding into a sunrise and top into a sunset. I must be facing south most of the time or something.

I liked the riders in the Mongolian image going the other way though. Left heading to the right.

Very cool lighting!

Kari Post said...

Very interesting Rick. The top photo is certainly easier on the eyes for me. Something to think about for sure.

Do you ever flip a photo like this for presentation, just so that the photograph flows better? It is something I have never considered doing before, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.