Study vectors (arrows) to make better compositions:
An interesting idea:
A lot of compositional concepts in photography come from mathematics– specifically, geometry.
I stumbled upon this idea purely by chance– by looking at geometry and mathematic textbooks at the house of my friend Alexander Amy, and my other buddy Kevin.
What is a vector?
The word ‘vector’ comes from Latin, which means “carrier, transporter.” It comes from the word, ‘veho’– which means “I carry, I transport, I bear.”
So essentially, a vector is an arrow that (in the terms of photography or composition) transports or directs your eye a certain direction.
I like the idea of ‘cross-pollination‘ — the basic concept that we can mix different fields of knowledge to discover new ideas.
For example, one big interest I have at the moment is this:
Math/Geometry x Photography
The terminology ‘vector’ is useful because it concertizes something we already know in photography:
When we look at a picture, our eyes are directed by vectors (arrows).
Let us examine deeper.
You can draw a vector (an arrow) that follows the movement of the direction that your subjects look at.
Vectors get very interesting when you have a scene with multiple subjects looking in different directions, like this scene in Citizen Kane:
Vectors with visual elements
Another scene from Citizen Kane: Note the low angle composition, and the elements in the background which point in different directions– outlined with vectors (screenshot tool with MacOS Mojave):
What direction is the thing going?
If you imagine your subjects as vectors (arrows)– ask yourself:
What direction is it heading?
Add some negative space in front of the direction the vector is heading:
Vectors which come out towards you
One of the great things about studying vectors is this:
You can have vectors (arrows) which go INTO a picture (symbolized by (X)), or vectors which come OUT TOWARDS YOU (symbolized by the mathematical notation: (·)).
For example, let us look at this picture:
Outlining the eye which is coming towards you as a three-dimensional vector:
Imagine the poster in the background as this three dimensional head (seen from the side):
Apologies– not doing a good job explaining this. Let us move on.
Vectors in three-dimensions:
An easy way to imagine vectors (arrows) in three dimensions:
Stick out your three fingers like this– and have them point in opposite directions (x, y, z) axis.
How objects are rotated in three dimensions:
Applied to the real world — let us see this scene from Citizen Kane:
Think to yourself– who is closest to you in the frame, and who is furthest away?
With edge detection added:
Now see the vectors added with the eye contact, and also the hand pointing:
Layers and vectors
One of my favorite Citizen Kane scenes– note all the epic layers, and the different vectors in which the subjects are looking:
Master composition for yourself:
Photography Composition Tips
- Vector (Arrow) Photography Composition
- Clear and Obscure (Chiaroscuro) Photography Composition
- How to Photograph Motion
- Photography Composition: Which Direction is Your Subject Looking?
- Blocking Technique in Photography
- How to Shoot a Triangle Photography Composition
- How to shoot a golden triangle composition in street photography
- 8 Simple Curve Composition Tips
- 5 Simple Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition Tips
- Foot Zoom
- Photography Composition: Light and Dark
- Street Photography Composition Lesson #16: Scale
- Shape, Arrangement, Position (S.A.P.) and Contour, Inter-Contact, Position (C.I.A.) in Photography
- 10 Tips How to Fill the Frame in Photography
- Look Up! 16 Photography Composition Perspective Tips
- 5 Simple Street Photography Composition Tips
- Depth Perception
- Golden Angle Composition in Street Photography
- Photographer as an “Arranging Artist”
- Dynamic Off-Center Street Photography Compositions
- 5 Essential Composition Tips in Photography
- Red and Green Composition Color Theory For Photographers
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Color Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Manual
- How to Shoot Color Street Photography
Learn From the Masters of Composition
- 10 Lessons Matisse Can Teach You About Art and Life
- Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition
- 10 Timeless Lessons Edward Weston Can Teach You About Photography
- 10 Inspirational Sergio Larrain Compositions
- 5 Henri Cartier-Bresson Photography Composition Lessons
Dynamic Photography Composition 101
- Introduction to Dynamic Photography Composition
- How to Visually Analyze Your Photography Compositions
- Dynamic Tension: Opponent Based Theory For Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Dynamic Photography Composition 101: Figure to Ground
Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- 7 Simple Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make Aggressive Photography Compositions
- 10 Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make More Dynamic Picture Compositions
- Unorthodox Photography Composition Techniques
- Deconstructed: Saigon Eric Kim Photos
Take your composition to the next level:
- Gestalt Theory
- Center Eye
- Dutch Angle
- Deep Depth
- Leading Lines
- Figure to Ground
- Fibonacci Spiral
- Composition by Eric Kim
Street Photography Composition 101
For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”
Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- Composition Lesson #4: Leading Lines
- Composition Lesson #5: Depth
- Composition Lesson #6: Framing
- Composition Lesson #7: Perspective
- Composition Lesson #8: Curves
- Composition Lesson #9: Self-Portraits
- Composition Lesson #10: Urban Landscapes
- Composition Lesson #11: “Spot the not”
- Composition Lesson #12: Color Theory
- Composition Lesson #13: Multiple-Subjects
- Composition Lesson #14: Square Format
Learn compositional theory:
- Why is Composition Important?
- Don’t Think About Composition When You’re Shooting Street Photography
- How to Use Negative Space
- Street Photography Composition 101
- The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
Compositional lessons from the masters of art
Golden Diagonal Composition
Unleash your creative potential:
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.