I had an "AHA!" moment this weekend. I have been watching instructional videos on using Photoshop CS3 and reworking some old images that I liked, but never loved...just to see if I could make some magic happen. Well, I didn't make any magic, but I did learn something simple and effective for improving an image. The FLIP.
In my prior post (Feedback from a Pro), I shared the pro's idea about how we read left to right and how this also impacts how we view images. His instruction to me was to have something interesting on the left side of the frame and avoid dead space there. I further interpreted this to mean that the image should flow from left to right if it is to feel natural or more soothing. Not all images flow, but those with pattern, repetition and strong line tend to. "Feeling natural or more soothing" may not be the objective of the image, but if it is, this left to right idea makes some sense.
Here are a couple of photos I worked on yesterday where I like the overall composition, but found that by FLIPPING the image horizontally, I had a much more natural flow and balance. I'll discuss why I think so under each photo.
Why I like the Flipped Image better:
In this case, this image is slowly paced and flowing. The original version, with the women walking to our left (opposite of how we read) creates a sort of tension among them. Not sure why, but it does. With the women walking to the right, they seem to flow thru the image more naturally. In addition the lamp on the wall to the left provides a key element in drawing us into and then across the image. On the original version, the lamp just seems to be in conflict with the women's pace. Finally, and this may be just me, the Flipped version seems brighter and just a tad more vibrant to me, even though I know it is not.
Before & After:
Why I like the Flipped Image (the one on the right) better:
It actually hard for me to say why I like this one better, but I do. For some magical reason, the red umbrella becomes the subject of the flipped version, where as the original version seems to be struggling for a subject. I would even argue that, in the original version (left image) the blue umbrella is competing (and failing) to be the prominent subject. Its interesting to me that the red umbrella looks brighter and more saturated in the flipped version, even though I know it is not.
Something else at play here is the direction of the glance of the woman in the light colored jacket. Her glance to the left in the original version causes a subtle tension, while in the flipped version it seems more natural. Again, this is that "reading right to left" thing coming into play.
All of a sudden, I'm feeling compelled to revisit all of my favorite images to see if flipping them will have me seeing them in a new way.