Brightness

A viewer's eye will be drawn to the brightest area in a photograph. Without thinking, it's the first place that the eye tracks to. Brightness is one of the more obvious considerations that I make in many of my photographs, especially with respect to where the light is falling.

In this image of the accordion player, the viewer's eye is drawn to the bright white keys and the hand. This is the spot from which the exploration of the image begins. Within the context of the photographic frame, it's where I'm directing my viewer to look first. The image has a rich range of colors and tones, but the bright area of the image becomes the visual anchor.

The viewer's eyes wander and explore the rest of the frame, but the bright area—the heart of the composition—pulls them back like a magnet.

Brightness helps me think about where I want my audience to begin their journey in my photograph. When I photographed a pair of wedding bands, I positioned the rings on top of the invitation, which was printed on off-white paper. I knew that the viewer's eye would go directly to the white surface, so that's where I placed the bands.

Not only does the background of the invitation make the shape and color of the rings easy to read, but it adds weight to the image. By that I mean that, even though the viewer's eyes may go up to explore the colorful flowers at the top of the frame, they'll be pulled back down to the rings, which are the most important element in the frame.

This doesn't mean that the subject always has to be the brightest thing in the photograph, though. That's just not possible. But it's important to be aware of what part of your frame is brightest, because if it isn't the subject, that bright element in another area of the frame may compete with the subject for the viewer's attention.

Identifying the brightest area of my frame helped me to place the rings in a location where they would draw the greatest attention.

The contrast between light and dark are at the heart of this dramatic shot of a bandleader conducting during a bonfire rally.

The expanse of white accented by the shapes of the car details and the line of the hood make for a strong graphic photograph.

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