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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Newhall

How To: "Read" a Photo (and Use That to Make a Great Photo)!

Updated: Jan 10

What does it mean to "read" a photograph? Well, when you read a book or newspaper article you are scanning something for information. The same thing holds true for when you look at a photograph. Here are 3 ways that people "read" photos, and how you can use this to make your photos better!

1. Rule of Thirds

First on the list is the Rule of Thirds. You'll notice that in the screenshot placed below there are 3 horizontal lines and 3 vertical lines that cut the image into 9 pieces. The screenshot on the right has 4 blue circles on the sections where the lines cross. These are some of the more important spots on the grid. This is where the human eye naturally goes, and can help make an image "interesting." These lines can also help a photographer center an image.

2. Off-Center Subject

One of the first things you probably noticed about the above images is that the subject is slightly off center and to the viewer's left. This is deliberate. The nature of the off-center subject attracts the viewers attention and, in the case of Americans, is one of the first things they see when they look at the image.

3. Reading

Nearly everyone can read. In the case of Americans (and other English speakers) we read from left to right. The same thing holds true when you look at an image. You might not notice, but your eyes likely travel from left to right. At least at first. That is how you "read" an image. So as a result, the first thing your brain registers is either the camera or the hand in the image. Upon a second or third viewing of the image, you might notice the letters on the shirt or the ear of the subject. But those probably weren't the first thing you noticed, were they?

That's Great, But How Do I Use This?

As a photographer, structuring and snapping the image is just as important as editing and perfecting it. Knowing this Rule of Thirds can be helpful with both taking the initial image and perfecting it later down the road. I often find that this makes a photo much more appealing to both the artist and the viewer. So keep this in mind when you go on your next shoot!

As a viewer, knowing the rule of thirds can help analyze and understand an image. As a beginning viewer you might be shocked at how long people look at a photograph. They're taking in all the many parts of the image. Part of this is done by looking at the structure of the image; how the image is put together.

A part of learning something is always wondering how to apply it, isn't it? Learning about the Rule of Thirds is no different. In fact, learning about the Rule can be very helpful for both beginning and experienced photographers. Whether you are a viewer, a photographer, or just a curious person, I hope you learned something from this little post!

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