On eye magnets

A while back I wrote about how a photographer has choose whether or not to make major (or even quite minor) changes to an image.

My preference is not to take anything out of an image (I rarely, if ever, add anything) unless I have a compelling reason to do so.

The other day, I took a picture which, quite simply, had to be modified. This picture scored a perfect 10 for the presence of an eye magnet: a minor feature of the image that constantly draws the eye away from the rest of the picture.

This is the picture that I took of my friend Alison Diamond (top-notch sax player, BTW).

Eye magnet

Do you see it? Well, you can’t miss it, can you? That target-shaped design just keeps pulling your eye to it. Its colour and shape stand out against the rest of the pattern, and that has the effect of it seeming to be an independent object. I suspect that, were I to print this picture, one’s first reaction would be to try to peel the round bit off—it looks so much like something that’s been stuck on, not even a part of the original scene.

There was no dilemma about this: it had to go. Not that I’m passing any sort of comment on the nature of the pattern or Alison’s impeccable choice in clothing. From a purely photographic point of view it could not remain there, other than as an example in a post about eye magnets.

Ahhh, much better

(Since I was making that change, I felt I might as well get rid of the intrusive piece of mirror, since that was also adding nothing whilst being slightly distracting.)

The odd thing is that, in real life, you would barely notice that part of the pattern. Our brains process real-life views differently than they do static pictures. In real life things are 3-D, we interact with the scene—we’re part of the scene—we concentrate on different things. When we’re faced with a picture, however, the dynamic changes; we’re no longer part of the scene, we’re not interacting with it, so we’re free to change the focus of our attention. We also have a lot more time to examine everything in the scene, since it’s not constantly changing.

And thus we have one of the reasons why our photographs sometimes fail to bring back the memories that we have of the event. The art of photography includes the understanding of the different ways we react to real life and to images, and to modify the picture-taking process (and, sometimes, the post-processing) to account for that difference.