I’m currently teaching myself Gestalt Theory, a principle mostly applied to designers. Here are some ideas which can make you see the visual world from a design standpoint:

1. Figure to ground

Figure to ground: separation between opposing colors
Figure to ground: separation between opposing colors

In gestalt theory, you need a separation between opposing colors or brightness.

For example, white vs black, and black vs white.

Gestalt theory: Do you see a face or a vase?
Gestalt theory: Do you see a face or a vase?

The secret: create SEPARATION between the colors, avoid overlap.

2. Proximity

Proximity: gestalt theory. Red objects seem to be the same group, and blue objects are the same group too.
Proximity: gestalt theory. Red objects seem to be the same group, and blue objects are the same group too.

When you place objects next to one another, the eye perceives them as part of a group.

To make better photographs, group certain subjects you want together, by placing them together.

Kurosawa Rashomon still.
Kurosawa Rashomon still.
Kurosawa Rashomon still. Note how the blue and the white subjects are a group, because they are next to one another. Distant in another group, is the man in yellow.
Kurosawa Rashomon still. Note how the blue and the white subjects are a group, because they are next to one another. Distant in another group, is the man in yellow.
Abstracted. Kurosawa Rashomon still. Note how the blue and the white subjects are a group, because they are next to one another. Distant in another group, is the man in yellow.
Abstracted. Kurosawa Rashomon still. Note how the blue and the white subjects are a group, because they are next to one another. Distant in another group, is the man in yellow.

3. Continuance

Continuance in photo gestalt theory: our eyes want to see things completed.
Continuance in photo gestalt theory: our eyes want to see things completed.

This applies to leading lines, because our eyes want to see the forms and shapes continue through the frame.

For example, in this picture, your eyes want to see CONTINUANCE of the woman in umbrella, to complete her walking movement, to the right of the frame:

4. Closure

Closure: gestalt theory, our eyes see a triangle even though there really isn’t one.
Closure: gestalt theory, our eyes see a triangle even though there really isn’t one.

To apply closure to photography: make sure not to crop out any edges of an object at the edge of a frame.

For example, if you’re photographing a triangle, make sure the edge of the triangle doesn’t get chopped off.

Bad closure: not enough black space around white triangle on the right of the frame. Gestalt theory.
Bad closure: not enough black space around white triangle on the right of the frame. Gestalt theory.
Good closure: Black space around white triangle. Gestalt theory.
Good closure: Black space around white triangle. Gestalt theory.

Or for closure, if there isn’t any shapes or forms to fill in the blank spaces in your pictures, your brain will automatically try to fill in the negative spaces.

Practical Assignments to apply to your photography

I’m still working through these ideas on Gestalt Theory, but the basic principles to apply:

  1. Create clear separation between your subjects and the background
  2. Movement and negative space is essential in photos
  3. Avoid overlapping figures
  4. Keep it simple: shoot black and white, to better see the relationship between figure to ground in your pictures
  5. Use Procreate and iPad to visually analyze your own pictures

COMPOSITION 101

ERIC KIM X ANNETTE KIM X BAUHAUS REMIX

Dynamic Photography Composition 101

Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION
Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION

Dynamic Photography Composition Tips

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM
Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Composition Theory

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM
Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Take your composition to the next level:


Street Photography Composition 101

DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM
DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM
Woman and door. Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

 

Learn compositional theory:


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