Our eyes and minds are extraordinarily powerful. We process so much information without awareness, and a great example is our periphery. I remember when I was learning to drive, and the instructor said something that seemed very counter intuitive to what I had thought was the important message of ‘keeping you eyes on the road’. He said that while driving we should be looking around, reading street signs, looking at other cars, keeping your eyes moving. Apparently this is because our peripheral vision is better at picking up changes in light, so when the brake lights change from dim to bright, we can pick it up quicker. Who knew?!
I’m no optometrist but I can attest to my peripheries affect on the way I look at photographs. While looking at the subject, if there is something that doesn’t feel right in my periphery, my eyes will naturally drift away to investigate. This is brings me to my pointer; pay attention to the edges of your photograph and re-frame as needed to avoid any distracting items. Or if you notice in post processing, see if you can crop out the distraction. Some examples of these are tree branches, partial street signs, or even a person that is cut in half by the frame’s edge. If there is an object that is unidentifiable to your peripheral vision, it will naturally distract you from the subject, lessening the impact and overall appeal (yes, your periphery is distracted by that person cut in half). Here is a quick visual example of what I am talking about.
To me, there are a couple of edge problems in this photo, but I will focus on the one that jumps out at me most, and that is the dark evergreen spot in the top right corner. This image is very monochromatic, and generally on the lighter side. The evergreen draws my eye, and although my conscious mind knows it’s an evergreen, it is distracting. Because it is cut off, and a dark spot in an otherwise bright scene, it draws my eye away for the subject, fall foliage.
Here is a slightly different composition. In this shot, the evergreen tree is fully captured in the frame. I think it is much less distracting than the tree in example A. Your brain registered the tree in your periphery by the shape and color and therefore it isn’t nearly as distracting. I still think the tree due to it’s contrast is still distracting, but this lesson is about the frames edges.
But let’s take a look at a bonus pointer, if the sky isn’t interesting you can cut it out! Shown below, is the best composition of the area, limiting the sky and cutting out any distracting areas of dark spots caused by the evergreen trees.
I hope you enjoyed this pointer. I would love to hear what you think. Do you prefer the 3rd image? Did you find this pointer to be helpful? Any questions about the edges of your photographs?