The Photographer’s Eye – Michael Freeman – Learning Points

These are my learning points from the book The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman, Ilex, Lewes, 2007.

Frame Dynamics

P10. Align prominent lines to the frame (e.g. two sides of a skyscraper). The frame can be made to interact strongly with the image.

Frame Shape

P15 When shooting vertically ‘tendency with a dominant single subject to push focus downward and avoid upper part of vertical frame.”

Dividing the Frame

P26 Golden section proportions – took me a while to understand this, but I think i get it now.


P28 Horizon ‘Natural tendency to place line lower in framerather than higher – related to the association of the bottom of the picture frame with a base.’

‘But if a distinct feature of interest in the foreground – encourages a higher position for the horizon”

Frames within Frames

P30 ‘Frames within frames enhances the dimensionality of a photo by emphasising that the viewer is looking from one plane to another.’

‘The internal frame draws the eye in by one step, particularly if it is similar in shape to the picture format.’

Gestalt Perception

P38 ‘An implied shape tends to strengthen a composition. Triangles are among the most potent of ‘closure-induced’ shapes in photography.’


P40 Two types of balance

  • symmetrical or static
  • dynamic

a small graphic element can successfully oppose a dominant one, as long as it is placed towards the edge of the frame.

Dynamic Tension

P42 ‘Interest in any image is in direct proportion to the amount of work the viewer has to do”

‘The more extreme the asymmetry, the more the viewer expects a reason for it.’

‘…. the ideal combination is a variety of diagonals in different directions, opposed lines and any structural device that leads the eye outward, preferably in competing directions.’

Figure and Ground

Ambiguous figure/ground relationships (e.g. Japanese/Chinese calligraphy) – preconditions –

There should be two tones in the image and they should contrast as much as possible. The two areas should be as equal as possible. There should be limited clues in the content of the picture as to what is in front of what.

Rhythm and Pattern

P48/50 Both built on repetition

  • rhythm with direction
  • pattern with area

Strongest pattern shown when repetition extends to the edge of the frame.

When faced with a mass mof similar objects good exercise to start at a distance and fill frame then take photos as closing inon just 4 or 5.

Texture – the primary quality of a surface (structure of an object is its form) Texture is quality of structure rather than tone or colour and so appeals mainly to sense of touch. Direction and qualty of lighting important – texture appears strongest when lighting is oblique and when light is hard rather than soft and diffuse.



  • Wide angle lenses enhance linear perspective, telephoto lenses flatten it.
  • Hazy/misty scenes appear deeper than they really are because of strong aerial perspective
  • Tonal perspective – light object against a dark background will stand out.
  • Colour perspective – warm colours advance perceptually and cool colours recede

Visual weight

P58 Eye is attracted to

  • Faces
  • Writing

Graphic Elements

  • Point
  • Line
  • Shape –  triangles, rectangles, curves

A Single Point

P66 Single point – placement

  • Central – static and usually dull
  • Close to edge – eccentric – needs justification
  • slightly off centre – moderately dynamic, not extreme

Horizontal Lines

P72 Contrast plays the biggest role in defining lines visually, contrast between light and shade, between areas of different colour, between textures, shapes, etc.

Horizontal lines have a more placis effect than diagonal.

Vertical Lines

P74 When used with horizontal, vertical lines create an equilibrium and can create a primary sensation of balance.

Diagonal Lines

P78 A diagonal leads the eye along it more than any other line.

Perspective diagonals appear stronger through a wide angle lens.

Diagonals appear more dynamic when they form a stronger angle with the longer side of the frame. Parallel diagonals reinforceeach other; a variety of diagonals gives the greatest energy to an image.


P80 The sense of movement along a curve is greater than on a straight line.

Eye Lines

P82 One of the most valuable implied lines in a photograph. If a person in a photograph is looking at something our eyes naturally follow that direction.


P84 In photographic composition, triangles ar the most useful shapes.

P86 Arranging 3 object so that 2 form a base and the third an apex above creates a stable form/ It is the classic 3 figure shot. The reverse configuration / is equally useful – less stable, more aggressive, containing more movement. It has special use in still life. A wide angle lens from a raised perspective, looking slightly down, will emphasise proportions of inverted triangles.

Circles and rectangles

P88 Rarer than the triangle – as with the triangle more interesting when implied.

Circles can have an enclosing effect – draw eye inward.

Rectangles have associations of gravity, solidity, precision and sharp limitation – tend to be static, unyielding and formal. Have to be photographed from square on or else sides will converge.


P96 Eye readily follows a line – or suggestion of one.

Diagonals particularly useful, especially if 2 or more and they converge.

Curves also have feeling of movement and occasionally speed and acceleration.

Implied lines can be created using viewpoint and lens.

Another device is any representation of movement, e.g person walking.


P94 Telephoto lens – depth of field is shallow. Shorter focal length gives images with better depth of field


P96 Motion blur, in appropriate circumstances, can convey movement and actuality – and a sense of uncertainty.


P 98 Anticipation of movement so as to be ready for ‘decisive moment’.


P100 Wide angle:

  • change apparent perspective and perception of depth
  • lendency to produce diagonals, therefore dynamic tension
  • induce subjective viewpoint, drawinf viewer into the scene

Telephoto lens:

  • reduces impression of depth
  • selective view therefore can pick out graphic structures
  • tendency towards horizontals and verticals
  • facilitates juxtaposing 2 or more elements
  • distances viewer from subject (creates more objective, cooler way of seeing things.


P106 Eye has a tendency to move towards areas of ‘normal’ exposure – paticularly if these are bright. Higher contrast tends to direct attention from shadow to light – lower contrast allows eyes to wander across the frame.

Expose for the highlights.

Chiaroscuro and key

P110 Shadows and highlights can contribute strongly to the mood and atmosphere of a photograph.

Much more difficult to make high key work in colour than in B&W.


P120 Complementary harmony – (hues across the colour circle)

Harmony of similarity – (hues from the same sector of the colour circle)

Colour proportions;

  • Orange (3) & Blue(8)
  • Red (4) & Green(4)
  • Yellow (3) & Violet(9)
  • Orange (3)  Green(4)  Violet(8)
  • Yellow(3)  Red(4)  Blue(9)
  • Red : Green  1:1
  • Orange : Blue  1:2
  • Yellow : Violet  1:3

Black and White

P126 B&W allows more modulation of tone, in conveying texture, the modelling of form and defining shape.

Clear or Ambiguous

P140 The less obvious the point of the photograph, the more it involves the viewer in reading it and thinking about it.

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