Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Reviews of photography products that enhance the enjoyment of taking pictures. Published frequently but irregularly.

Roger Ebert On Image Composition And Life Tweet This   Forward This

4 April 2013

With the passing today of film critic Roger Ebert, we're reminded of a piece he wrote in his Chicago Sun-Times journal in 2008 titled How To Read A Movie. In that piece he laid out some "rules of thumb" for what he called "basic visual strategy."

Taking the art of composition beyond the simple Rule of Thirds, here they are, in his own words:

In simplistic terms: Right is more positive, left more negative. Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so. The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left. The top is dominant over the bottom. The foreground is stronger than the background. Symmetrical compositions seem at rest. Diagonals in a composition seem to "move" in the direction of the sharpest angle they form, even though of course they may not move at all. Therefore, a composition could lead us into a background that becomes dominant over a foreground. Tilt shots of course put everything on a diagonal, implying the world is out of balance. I have the impression that more tilts are down to the right than to the left, perhaps suggesting the characters are sliding perilously into their futures. Left tilts to me suggest helplessness, sadness, resignation. Few tilts feel positive. Movement is dominant over things that are still. A POV above a character's eyeline reduces him; below the eyeline, enhances him. Extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns; low angles make them into gods. Brighter areas tend to be dominant over darker areas, but far from always: Within the context, you can seek the "dominant contrast," which is the area we are drawn toward. Sometimes it will be darker, further back, lower, and so on. It can be as effective to go against intrinsic weightings as to follow them.

We were charmed to learn that his first desktop was a DEC Rainbow and his first "laptop" a Radio Shack Model 100 because so were ours. He maintained that early interest in technology to the end. His 2011 TED talk allowed him to speak through his MacBook Pro, discussing how identity is expressed in one's voice. A voice he continued to exercise to the end with his blog, long after his speech was silenced.

His 2010 piece Nil By Mouth is also worth a peek. More than the story of how he lost the ability to eat, it describes the sadness of "the loss of dining." He explained:

The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.

And being at dinner right now, let's lift our glasses to celebrate him one more time.

BackBack to Photo Corners