Walking Into The Art Gallery of Ontario
A simple example of a directing the viewer’s eye in a black and white image
Here’s a simple example, extremely simple, of a time-tested theory in black and white photography on directing the viewer’s eye.
The color image below is basically straight-out-of-camera. I liked this shot for a few reasons: closeness to the AGO sign, strong diminishing perspective, and the red in the woman’s shirt being a perfect match to the red in the sign. Other than that, my eye (and likely yours) is wondering all over the image — something I do not like at all. There are too many distractions and minimal visual impact.
This image was always meant to be converted to black and white from the moment before I shot it. In editing, I wanted the sign to be the “star”, and the woman be a complimentary element. Everything else needed to be minimized to varying degrees. The areas of greatest contrast will always get the attention of the viewer first, areas of lesser contrast less, and so on. This is exactly what’s happening in this simple image. You are looking at the sign. You can’t help it…I can’t help it either! This is the power of peaking opposite sides of the black and white zones to create areas of greatest contrast.
Many believe, as I do, that black and white images need to have areas of dark black and areas of bright white. Basically, “every” zone should be represented to whatever degree you wish in the image. Everything across the image should not be mid-gray. Do to so fails to direct the viewer’s eye. My black and white images tend to be heavy on darks and bright whites, and this is just a personal preference. There are many examples of mid-gray images that work; however, when you study those images you will still see areas of dark black and bright white, or at least zones that are peaking regardless of their degrees of separation in the zone system. So the theory — cover all the zones to the degree you need to in order to direct the viewer’s eye. The image will have a greater visual impact. Of course, I could be wrong in agreeing with this theory. 🙂
Photograph by Mabry Campbell, Toronto, Canada, 2015