A Guide to the Eye: Learning How Humans See Can Make You a Better Photographer

A Guide to the Eye: Learning How Humans See Can Make You a Better Photographer

If you are serious about photography, at one time or another you may have considered how the human eye reacts to an image. After all, it is logical to assume that possessing information about what entices the eye can help you take much more powerful photos. If you could use a little education in the subject, the folks at PopPhoto have put together a comprehensive analysis called “The Photographers Guide to the Eye” that does a great job of breaking down how we see scientifically. The finer points of the article are outlined after the break.

•Keep in mind that “we see first with our animal selves and then with our acculturated minds.” In “bottom- up” seeing we may scan around an image before settling in on the main subject.

•After our animal selves are satisfied, the eye is naturally attracted to areas that generate a conditioned response–like an image images involving beauty or sex or something unexpected (see above). This is called “top-down” seeing.

•The goal for any photographer is to appeal to both bottom-up and top-down ways of seeing. However, it may be beneficial to think primitively. In other words, skew towards bottom-up seeing because if the image lacks an instinctual stimulus, it may be difficult for the average viewer to fully comprehend.

•If you want to draw the eye to non-human aspects of an image, leave out (or obscure) faces. Humans tend to search for emotional significance in a face right off the bat.

•Know your eye facts. PopPhoto has presented a list of quick fun facts about the eye that can help you take better photographs. Among these tidbits of information we learn that you should avoid scenes with bright “pupil-contracting lights”, taking advantage of the motion parallax can help viewers see in greater depth and if you illuminate from the above left, it will appeal to right-handed individuals. And don’t forget that the eye is drawn to faces, lines, and the unexpected–so incorporate these elements wherever you can.

Despite all of this information, it seems that the key to taking good photographs is to shoot first and ask questions later. If you let your own eye guide you without your brain making to big a mess of things, you should be able to create more appealing images. Make sure to check out the PopPhoto article to get the full list of tips. [PopPhoto via NYT Image via Flickr]