The structure of photography. How to draw the viewer’s attention?

With a few successive articles we have confirmed the fact that really great artists (in any creative business) do not JUST FEEL, but KNOW EXACTLY what to do!

As the sublime Salvador Dali said:

‘If you refuse to study anatomy, the arts of drawing and perspective, the mathematics of aesthetics, and the science of color, let me tell you that this is more a sign of laziness than of genius.’

The structure of photography. How to draw the viewer’s attention?

The composition begins with the center. Its direction sets the mood!

1. The center of the universe!

2. Something left behind.

3. Follow your dream!

4. Dead end, failure.

5. Something lying at the bottom etc.

6. Weightlessness etc.

It is the same with the visual direction!

The direction helps us tell a story.

A love story, for example.

What is the image structure?

COMPOSITION is the arrangement and interplay of visual elements in the picture. Each small part of your photo makes a contribution to its story, content and THE WAY THE AUDIENCE WILL VIEW IT

Let’s specify 3 important questions we have to ask ourselves whenever we build the composition (the structure) of an image!

WHO IS LOOKING AT THE IMAGE (the depicted object or the viewer)? That’s the primary responsibility of the horizon level and perspective.

WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOOK AT? The emphasized center of attention deals with this issue.

HOW TO POSITION IT ALL TOGETHER IN A PHOTO? That’s the main concern of the layout (arranging objects of an image in a specific order, image cropping)

Last time we gave an answer to the first question, and today we will figure out the second one and talk about the CENTER OF ATTENTION of an image.

The law of the center of attention!

Each picture has its main focus and all lines should go towards it.

This point of converging lines holds pride of place in the picture! And later THE WHOLE composition stems from this focal point – the area of the photo where viewer’s attention is drawn first.

Thus, an image should ALWAYS have a meaningful center and a strong storyline!

Whatever distracting from this center should be removed, and the center itself should be emphasized by all possible means, leading the viewer's eye to it.


If we add the MAIN line, this will make it easier to tell a story!

1.Road ahead

2.Ship sailing away

3.Plane taking off

4.Train dashing forward

5.Something falling down

6.Hop jump

And if we add SECONDARY lines, successful reading is guaranteed!

There is every indication that they are not just running, but there is going to be a joyful meeting!

Position of an object and invisible lines make up emotional SKELETON of an image.

All lines are pulling down! And the straight central position of an object enhances this pull, giving no chance to the lateral move. Downward look and foot direction did their part as well.


Our whole life and all the habits we have make a mark on our perception! And playing along with the perception, we can rule the viewer’s attention! There is NO WAY to GO AGAINST the rules, because you will NOT BE UNDERSTOOD!

The practice of left to right reading and the habit to follow clockwise movement help to lead viewer’s eye.

For example, the direction arrows enhance understanding of arrivals / departures and keeps the passengers from being confused.

And in the painting we can clearly see if the characters are running out of or into the forest.


The most powerful scheme!

Centralized schemes, as in the examples above of ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo Da Vinci and ‘The Incredibles’ cartoon still have the STRONGEST FOCUS!

IMPORTANT NOTICE! Centralization must align with vanishing point (the point, where all the lines converge on the horizon line)

This focus often coincides with the LIGHTEST spot in the image. For example, if you take a closer look at both photos of Queen Elizabeth, you can see her as a much lighter area in the painting compared to the other objects. And the patch of the light sky on Leonardo’s canvas is even brighter than the white tablecloth.


On the website kogonada.com there is an amazing movie stills compilation from the great Stanley Kubrick’s movies, where he used focus technique for the key scenes. I strongly recommend you to watch it right away!

Pay attention to your eye shifting from the first main ship to another, and another, and gradually going along the row of ships to the end of the row. Then it slides over the glare on the water and moves towards the general, and the general’s glance redirects you to the first ship again! Whenlines do not go beyond the margin of the shot, but move over the shot, it makes the viewers keep their eye on the image for longer! Direction of the white waves and flying seagulls play their part as well!Couch lines, carpet patterns, lines on the walls, central position – absolutely all those factors help to focus attention!


When there are a few centers.

There can be a few centers, but in this case they should make up a LINE. It’s easy to deal with two centers, whereas having three centers requires some painstaking work. The acme of perfection is when all the centers are connected in a circle along closed path. For example, as you can see in the painting ‘Parade of the Black Sea Fleet in 1849’ by Ivan Aivazovsky, our eye shifts from the general to the first ship, then it slides to the end of the fleet, and with sunlight on the water it gets back to the general.

Important detail! Because our line has no WAY IN or OUT of the image, and it moves recurrently between the centers, our attention is held on the scene even LONGER!

Even the chair carelessly left on the background plays its part, prolonging an invisible line! It’s not for nothing! It all counts!

Make up your own story for each scheme!

1. Actor on the stage

2.Something very important in the middle of the room! The queen!

3. Someone was running and suddenly stopped. Abyss!

4. Friends running together.

5. Is it a duel? Or just a conversation?

6. Offended? Angry with each other?

7.An argument. Everyone is blaming one another.

8. An argument. All is blamed on one person.

9.Children are running to play? Or an advancing army?

Cultivate your imagination! Let’s play! Write your own story under each number in comments and compare with the others! It will be a lot of fun!


It will be really useful to analyze some photos and paintings of great artists and draw simple schemes! Only AWARENESS in your practice leads to success!