Category Archives: 09a-Positioning a point

Exercise- Positioning a point

This is the first exercise in the section Elements of Design. The course notes suggest that working in black-and-white offers an advantage of focusing attention more precisely on the graphic element in a photograph.

Take three photographs in which there is a single point, placed in a different part of the frame in each example. Explain your decisions.

 The point is the most basic graphic element of all. For a subject to be considered eligible as a point it should contain only a small part of the frame area and contrast, in some way, with the background.

Freeman (2007) suggests that, practically, there are three zones in a picture frame for placing a single, dominant point with three differing readings

  • central- static, and usually dull
  • close to the edge- markedly eccentric, needing some justification.
  • slightly off-centre- moderately dynamic, without being too extreme

In preparing for this exercise I looked through my photograph library to search for examples where I had composed an image around a point. I found it helpful when doing this to consider the expanded the definition of a point, suggested by Präkel (2006), as a small area of concentrated detail. Even so, I found only a few photographs that could be considered a point.



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The gull is positioned central in the frame. The composition is simple and uninteresting.

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The speedboat in this image is, again, centrally positioned. I feel the composition would have appeared less static had a positioned the boat slightly off-centre, either to the right or left.

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This  desert rose flower fell from the tree above onto the top of a hedge. I positioned the flower slightly off-centre to the right. The ray of sunlight shining into the frame and on to the flower, from the top right hand corner helps justify the placement.

To demonstrate three different positions in which you can place a single point in the frame I chose to photograph a Black-winged Stilt, which I spotted wading in a man-made lake, in a busy part of the city.  I took the three photographs of the Black-winged Stilt in colour and then later converted them to monochrome

The first photograph has the bird placed centrally in the frame.

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1. Black-winged Stilt
180mm, f/10, 1/200s, ISO 100

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The composition is static, with no sense of movement or activity.

For the second photograph I captured the bird slightly off-centre.

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2. Black-winged Stilt
180mm, f/10, 1/200s, ISO 100

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The dividing lines show how the point has divided the frame. The horizontal line mirrors the direction the bird has taken as it wades through the water looking for food. This, teamed with the bird’s actions has added slightly more dynamism to the composition.

Präkel (2006) notes that the message conveyed by a single point is usually one of overwhelming isolation. I found that my eye seem to follow the direction pointed to by the bird’s tail feathers, towards an area of empty water. This empty, undisturbed water does seem to add an air of isolation and calm to this composition.

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3.Black-winged Stilt
180mm, F/10, 1/200s, ISO 100

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This image is my favourite of the three. It shows the bird placed low in the frame, towards the bottom right hand corner. Freeman (2007) describes placement such as this to be ‘markedly eccentric’ and requiring ‘some justification’.

By using the point as a marker to divide the frame I noted that the division was close to the Golden Section ratios.  Placing the bird closer the bottom of the frame has also made the bird appear closer to the viewer. The ‘empty’ space, in the upper part of the frame, contributes a sense of calm and quiet to the photograph.

This exercise has been useful as it demonstrated to me that, in this series of three photographs, the centrally positioned point was the least successful.

I took the three photographs of the Black-winged Stilt in colour and then later converted them to monochrome

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne, AVA Publishing SA