Placing the subject on the right or left?

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by darinwc, May 16, 2007.

  1. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    In reviewing many photos, I find myself prefering photos where the main subject is on the right. I wonder if that has anything to do with being right-handed or right-eye-dominant or some such. Does anyone else see this in themselves?

    Question for left-handers: Do you find yourself prefering compositions with the main subject on the right or left?
     
  2. tom_micklin

    tom_micklin Member

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    I think it has more to do with the fact that we are used to reading from left to right, so when we look at a photograph it's a natural flow for the eye if the subject is on the right.
     
  3. jss

    jss Member

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    i'm left handed but use either side in composition. i think it has more to do with natural processing of visual information. if a subject is on the left, it may be more in the foreground and the background sort of follows it or is subservient to it. you know, reading left-to-right. if the subject is on the right, i would think the other areas/info in the image lead up to the subject. so i think the placement subtley defines the relationship between subject and other items/people/subjects in the image.
     
  4. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I am left handed. I find that it depends on what the near field subject [person] is looking at. Sometimes I use the person to block something that I do not want in the photograph.



    Sometimes I shoot in English.
    Sometimes I shoot in Hebrew. :tongue: :tongue: :tongue:
    Steve
     
  5. DougGrosjean

    DougGrosjean Member

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    I have twin neices, and to keep every shot of them "separate but equal", I'll shoot one biased to the right, and one to the left, so that the two shots will work together on a wall or desk.

    Seems to work best if they're "looking toward" each other in the separate shots, rather than back-to-back.
     
  6. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    :D :D Good one, Steve! :D

    I'm left-handed as well, and I do tend to compose right to left, but sometimes a scene just screams the opposite. While I do tend to be highly left-hand dominate, I am right eye dominant. I almost always read magazines & newspapers back to front.

    So basically... no answers here!
     
  7. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I'd put conservatives on the left and liberals on the right, just to mix things up.
    It gets really confusing though, when you are using a camera with a WLF.
     
  8. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Oh no! Now I have to figure right from left (not to mention "top from bottom") while balancing my "Rule of Thirds"! :surprised:

    I am right handed - which is a good thing for me since the shutter button is in my dominant hand! [Take that you southpaws!].

    But I've never really thought about whether to put the subject in the left third or the right third.

    Oh, and then what do I do when shooting on the vertical? :confused:

    But, you know, I kind of like this new forum....:wink:
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    And what do you do when there is no subject?

    [​IMG]
     
  10. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I think you have a subject...

    BTW, it is sad that even now, central Montreal remains so empty....
     
  11. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Perhaps as an western reader/writer Thrughout the world there might be one or two folk that read R>L
     
  12. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Well the text is indeed a focus of attention (probably the primary one in terms of salience), but I didn't make the picture so that it would have a subject and a context. What I meant was more that the whole picture is the point, not the "subject." I made that picture like it not because putting the text on the right felt better than putting it on the left. I made it like that because the frames of the door on the left, and of the window on the right compose a sort of instant Mondrian.

    (It's in Toronto, actually!)

    So my point is that the notion of "subject" is not always applicable. It is probably derived from portraiture: landscape photography often does not have a subject in this sense (although it has one or more points of interest).

    Cf. for instance the two photos in the lower left corner of Robert Teague's portfolio:
    http://www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    It would be hard for me to say what is the "subject" of the picture in the lower left corner: the lake? the mountains? or the dark portion of ground? Likewise, in the next picture, which is the main subject: the mountain in light or the mountain in the shadow? On the next photo, it's clearer to me that there is a main subject, the group of round boulders, and the effect is different.

    My reading of Robert's photos (and I hope he will not mind my using him as a prop for my argument :smile: ) is that they work because of composition, and because all the varied elements hold each other together. I personally really like the light mountain/dark mountain picture, because it's a great example of balance: the salience of each element depends on the salience of the other element. Plus, the third mountain brings just a little bit of asymmetry in order to avoid monotony.

    It's like the ukiyo-e of the wave before mount Fuji: negative space is as important as positive space.

    So to make a long story short: the composition of your whole picture is important, as an organic whole, and positioning your main subject, when there is one, should be made with respect to the weight of other elements in the picture.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2007
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    In the UK (and IIRC, Japan), they put the subject on the left, whereas in most of the rest of the world they put it on the right.

    Wait, no, that's how they drive! :smile: :smile:

    Matt
     
  14. photographs42

    photographs42 Member

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    In general I agree with Michel HV, however, most of my images have a “subject” and the subject usually “faces” either right or left. I don’t photograph people, so the term faces is not literal, but unless the view is straight on, the composition usually leads the eye either right or left. If the subject faces left, I leave more room on the left. Of course this has something to do with what is actually to the subjects left but if the subject faces left and more space is on the right it is equivalent to a photo of a person walking out of the frame.

    A good composition is one in which the elements of the composition are visually balanced. So (as Michel said) placement of the main subject has a lot to do with the “visual weight” of the other elements. It has nothing to do with whether the composer is right or left handed.

    Jerome
     
  15. photographs42

    photographs42 Member

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    As for the topic of “what is the main subject”, I have always thought of it this way… The elements of a composition consist of a main subject, a supporting cast and any number of neutral objects.

    An object is neutral if its contribution to the impact of the image is of little or no importance. Sort of like something that’s there but we wouldn’t notice if it wasn’t or if something else were in its place. This could be the sky or grass or water etc.

    A supporting cast object is something that enhances the image with its presence but the image could stand up if it wasn’t there.

    The main subject is simple. It’s the one thing that “has” to be there. Without this element, the image has no compelling reason to exist.

    Jerome
     
  16. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    . . . and a lot more who read L<R
     
  17. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Wish I could figger out these new-fangled thangs.
     
  18. Removed Account

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    I have a tremendous built in bias to the lower right corner. Not quite sure what it is, but I usually find myself drawn to placing important compositional elements there. It is very confusing learning to use a view camera, and I go crosseyed or get vertigo quite often. Aside from those effects, I find I am putting more subjects on the lower left because of my bias to the right combined with recognizing the top of the groundglass to be the bottom of the photo makes me locate a lot of subjects in the top-right on the groundglass.

    - Justin
     
  19. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    I worked in a darkroom which was designed by a left-handed person and resulted in the dev tray being placed on the far right hand side. It's not a good idea to ask opinions from left-handed people! :smile:
     
  20. Leica_girl58

    Leica_girl58 Member

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    This is a topic I always have a problem with. I am right-handed but left-eyed. I have composed images where the main subject is on the left side, knowing the rule about reading right to left. It feels comfortable for me, but also I compose the other way too. I guess as long as the subject doesn't look like it is leaving the photo on me, I compose both ways.
    I also read magazines from back to front then front to back.


    One last thing...I paint watercolors which puts me in my left brain.

    I'm getting really confused now :smile:

    darlene
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Gary:

    I'm left handed but I've spent much of my lifetime working in darkrooms designed by right handed people - I guess that's why I'm so flexible and adaptable :wink: :wink: .

    Matt
     
  22. Leica_girl58

    Leica_girl58 Member

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    HaHa..I'm quoting myself.
    I goofed...creative activites such as drawing and painting comes from the right brain and not the left as I stated before. I really did get confused.

    darlene
     
  23. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Then there's the old Jewish Chronicle joke

    HOLD THE BACK PAGE!

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  24. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Placing main subject on the left or right?

    is academic question, and you will never "set" a rule for it. Many times, after Carravagio, there was attempt to teach through set of roles, especially in England where art was at its "high". Hovewer in that way skilled painters never produced a great work, while "free" from roles always broke sich rules and made a great work.

    Rules are still around in art but just for students to learn, and just after they get 'em they have to forget 'em.

    And to answer your question:
    Main subject should be there where you artistic instinct say, period. If you do not have such instinct leave it to the left of the viewfinder.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  25. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    "is academic question, and you will never "set" a rule for it. Many times, after Carravagio, there was attempt to teach through set of roles, especially in England where art was at its "high"."

    i was not trying to make a rule, I only noticed that I tend to do things a certain way. I had wondered if anyone else did the same and if it can stem from certain psycological or psyiological (sp?) qualities.