Moving Into The Frame; The Dynamic Motion, Gesture, And Intent

One of the traditional compositional guidelines that many artists and photographers adhere to is that a subject’s movement should go toward the center of the frame. You can see this method of composing an image in the photo of the frigate bird (#1) that I placed on the left side of the frame; it is flying toward the imaginary vertical center line of the image. Similarly, I placed the tall ship (#2) on the right side of the picture and it’s pointed toward the center as well.

All Photos © 2009, Jim Zuckerman, All Rights Reserved


The subject doesn’t have to be literally moving to make this idea work. For example, if a person, an animal, or even a statue is simply looking left or right, the gaze should be directed toward the center of the image. This keeps a viewer’s attention contained within the picture as opposed to having it wander to the perimeter.


The silhouette of a female firefighter is looking toward the center of the image (#3); the same placement is used in the famous statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro (#4). Even though my perspective is upward on the huge statue, there is still a vertical center line toward which the subject is looking.


The rearing horse composite (#5) was put together with the same idea in mind. When you work in Photoshop and assemble two or more images, your digital compositions will be more successful if there is enough space in front of the main subject so it is looking or moving toward the center of the frame. You have the flexibility in Photoshop to move the various elements as you assemble them so you can achieve this kind of composition.


Does this method of composition always have to be followed? No, of course not. It’s a technique, though, that will virtually always be considered correct. That doesn’t mean other approaches won’t be valid as well. (See “Breaking the Rules” on page 28 for a recap on this.) It is a safe bet, though,that making the direction of movement toward the middle of the picture will be compositionally pleasing.