What is VISUAL WEIGHT ?
Visual weight is the place/s or object/s to which your eye is drawn, when viewing a picture. This can be achieved by using one of, or a number of the seven different elements detailed below.
The way light is seen to fall within a photograph, on an area of the image, to emphasize a subject either through brightness or shadow, compared to the tonal and light balance of the complete picture.
Colour is a very important aspect of visual weight. Used correctly it can contribute to a very powerful image. The eye is drawn to bright colour, firstly the advancing colours. The most prominent of these are Yellow and Red with the two competing with each other to be the colour that most strongly pulls the eye towards it. Which colour, in a photograph, is dominant depends on the purity and the size of the area in the image. In other words, which colour is more fully saturated and unpolluted by other colours as well as the crispness or blur of its outline and its size. This can be confusing at times, but yellow and red are standout colours and when part of a photograph they should be carefully placed within the frame as they may pull the eye away from where you would like the attention to be focused. This can also happen with other colours so always be aware of where colours are in relation to each other and the main subject/s.
Positioning of the main point or points of interest in an image are often crucial to success. There are a number of compositional devices, the rule of thirds being the most common one. This is a grid where the frame is divided into nine equal rectangles. The placement of the main subject/s should be on the left and/or right third line, preferably with the most important part of the subject on the intersection of the third lines. Deciding which of the four intersecting points it is best to place the key element/s, like a subjects eyes, depends on all the components that make up the image. This placement can be subjective. In many cases where there are two centres of interest you will in all likelihood want them on third intersections diagonally opposite each other.
The other strong devices for key element placement are the golden spiral, the golden triangle and the golden ratio, which is similar to the rule of thirds.
The centre of the image is generally avoided except certain situations, like facing portraits and symmetrical images. Other considerations come into the equation if there is more than one subject or if the subject is moving. Generally the movement of the subject should be from left to right with space for the subject to move into, but this may alter depending on circumstances and cultural norms.
The most important aspect of positional composition is balance, let us not forget that we are discussing visual weight and what draws and holds the viewers’ attention. (For more on position and composition see my blog that deals with just this subject at: claudefelbertphotography.co.za.)
Selective focus can be used to draw attention to a subject by ensuring the subject is in sharp focus with the surroundings in varying degrees of soft focus. There are a few unusual circumstances where by intentionally blurring the main subject, visual weight may be added.
This is another name for some forms of leading lines where the eye has a definite path that it follows into the picture and takes the viewer to the main subject while adding to the story of the subject and its point of placement.
Geometric shapes formed by elements of an image that move the eye around the shape.
The shear mass of a key component of an image in relation to the other parts may also create visual weight.