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Proceedings Paper

What makes good image composition?
Author(s): Ron Banner
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Paper Abstract

Some people are born with an intuitive sense of good composition. They do not need to be taught composition, and their work is immediately perceived as being well by other people. In an attempt to help others learn composition, art critics, scientists and psychologists analyzed well-compose works in the hope of recognizing patterns and trends that anyone could employ to achieve similar results. Unfortunately, the identified patterns are by no means universal. Moreover, since a compositional rule is useful only as long as it enhances the idea that the artist is trying to express, there is no objective standard to judge whether a given composition is "good" or "bad". As a result, the study of composition seems to be full of contradictions. Nevertheless, there are several basic "low level" rules supported by physiological studies in visual perception that artists and photographers intuitively obey. Regardless of image content, a prerequisite for all good images is that their respective composition would be balanced. In a balanced composition, factors such as shape, direction, location and color are determined in a way that is pleasant to the eye. An unbalanced composition looks accidental, transitory and its elements show a tendency to change place or shape in order to reach a state that better reflects the total structure. Under these conditions, the artistic statement becomes incomprehensive and confusing.

Paper Details

Date Published: 2 February 2011
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 7865, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XVI, 786505 (2 February 2011);
Show Author Affiliations
Ron Banner, Hewlett-Packard Labs. Israel Ltd. (Israel)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7865:
Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XVI
Bernice E. Rogowitz; Thrasyvoulos N. Pappas, Editor(s)

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