Consider the puzzle-photo above. Great picture right? How romantic can life be when you’re kissing your beloved one in an old French car underneath the Eiffel tower. It doesn’t get more fairy-tale-like (or corny) than that! It’s actually hanging in an AirBnB in Acapulco, where I spent the weekend this week.
Despite all the romanticism, there is something that bothers me enormously about this picture. It’s composition. One of the first lessons you get in Graphic design class is that you have to test your designs’s silhouette, whether it’s an illustration, a photo or a 3D model. If you’re design doesn’t work as a silhouette, it doesn’t work at all.
Now look at the silhouette of this image:
See how the most important part of the picture – the lovebirds kissing – completely disappears? That’s because their faces coincide with the contours of the Eiffel Tower’s. If you want your audience to focus on a certain part of the image, ensure it stands out and is clearly visually separated from the other objects in your work.
Our minds try to find patterns in whatever we observe and absorb. That is why the Gestalt Theory is such a powerful and well-known paradigm that outlines some of the most important factors that play a role in achieving a certain mental (and visual) effect. This too counts for graphic design: buttons close to each other are perceived as a group, bigger objects appear to be more important than smaller ones, etc. On Medium.com, you find some excellent posts about the application Gestalt Theory in visual, graphic and data design, such as in this article by Rodrigo Gianello.
When I design or draw something, I make sure to have the ‘silhouette checking’ as part of the final sketching/concept phase, before I start detailing an illustration or continue the 3D construction in Rhino or 3Dmax. By assigning values to objects (values are shades of grey and black, that help you establish the impact and placing of objects in your composition. See for example, this image). Then, when I’m happy with the silhouette, I continue the design process.
So what could the photographer have done differently? It’s actually very simple: if the faces would have been just a bit more to the left, it would have formed a very nicely placed silhouette that stands out from the rest and draws attention – just what we needed. Then we would have a better view on the couple kissing and would better perceive their relation to the Eiffel tower.