How to Direct a Viewer’s Eyes in Photography

How do you lead your viewer to your intended subect in an image? Photographers often make the cardinal mistake of using props or asking the model to wear something really bright. Or when shooting landscapes, exposing for the ground rather than the sky. David Bergman from Adorama explains how to make sure your viewer looks where you want them to look:

As a photographer, it’s your duty to make sure that the viewer is looking at the exact area of your image that you intended.

A brighter sky, such as in the image below, naturally draws the attention of the audience toward the sky and not the buildings:

drawing viewers' eyes in photography

In the image below, a darker sky and better exposed building naturally draw the attention of the viewer toward the building:

exposure to draw viewer attention

The same thing happens when you’re shooting portraits.

portrait draw the eyes

In the image above, the bright white top of the model completely overshadows her face. Her face, despite properly being exposed, doesn’t draw the same attention.

Bergman explains that there are several techniques to make sure this doesn’t happen. To overcome this problem, you can alter the light. Use a snoot or a diffuser or any other light shaping contraption to soften or alter the quality of the light.

But that doesn’t always deliver the kind of results that you want.

altering light in images

The best solution is to ask the model to change into something darker.

model clothing choice photography

This way the subject is properly exposed while the darker clothing, which absorbs much of the light, remains obscured. Now the viewer’s attention goes straight toward the subject’s face and not her clothing.

What other tricks have you found to draw your viewer’s attention to your subject?

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