There’s a belief in photography that the eye is drawn to the brightest part of an image. This assumption most likely is correct. In fact, photographers and other artists have long used dark and light areas in their work for directing the eyes of their viewers. Think of a picture - a photograph or a painting - where the edges are darker than the interior portion. That dark area acts like a frame, subtlety telling the viewer where their eyes need to go, which is towards the interior where the subject lies.
So it would seem self-defeating to take a picture that includes bright and especially grossly overexposed areas that may distract the viewer from the photo’s main subject. But many photographers and artists do take pictures this way, including myself. It’s something that's always appealed to me. I’ve never been able to explain why and certainly have never been able to present a cogent argument rationalizing its inclusion in an image. But that is unimportant. I think the bottom line is that bright and ultra-bright areas, though they may be competing with the subject, can be dynamic in a photograph. I believe it’s the sheer intensity of the light, independent of whatever the subject is, that helps capture and hold my attention. The subject is still there and just as important. It’s just that now the whole image is more vibrant and exciting.
There are times when a bright light has a more practical purpose in a photograph. That's when it provides the illumination for the image. Without that light, there would be no picture. Of course, the light itself doesn’t have to be in the photo. Just the areas being lit can be included. But, as I’ve mentioned before, that bright area could be responsible for making the picture that much more appealing.
In addition, bright light can be used to hide an ugly or intrusive background. In the photos below, there were elements outside that I felt would hurt the photographs. Blowing out the backgrounds prevented this from happening.
Bright light works well as a clean, white, nonintrusive background for the subject. As seen in the image below, that and the odd highlighting around each chair help to define and separate each one. In addition, the overexposed areas adds some diffusion that softens the picture a bit.
I’ve seen many photographs where tunnels, corridors, passageways, and footpaths have ended in scary, mysterious, darkness. There seems to be a natural connection among those three qualities. It’s as if each one depends on the other two. However, replacing a dark area with a very bright one can often produce an equally scary and mysterious image. I think it’s the fact that whether an area is very dark or very bright, we just don’t know what awaits us there. But it’s interesting to consider how a grossly overexposed area also can connote heavenliness. It’s like people on the verge of death who see a bright light that pleasantly beckons them forward.
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Finding The Shot
Focus And Blur
Lighting The Subject