Understanding The Stop Effect – Visual Perceptions
The purpose of this article is to understand the visual perceptions and why we react to the first step of the formula – The stop effect. If you haven’t read the first free online photography lesson, you should click the link under here.
Photo by CHRISTIAN TAGLIAVINI
Due to our peripheral visions and high sensitivity to sudden changes in our surroundings, the movement is the force that attracts our attention most strongly in visual perceptions.
We have probably all experienced how a dog or cat can lie entirely peaceful without being influenced by the stagnant surroundings. However, as soon as something moves, the eyes of the animal become trapped by the movement and follows it.
There are infinitely many examples in nature of how animals react to movements, to find food or to avoid getting eaten.
Movement means a change in environment and change requires a reaction. But how can we experience movement in a still image? A movement that makes us see the picture, and a movement that takes our eyes around the image – and maybe even move our emotions?
Some believe that when an image’s compositional structure gives us a reaction of movement in our body, it is because we have a memory of a real movement.
We may even think that the movement is a painful absent in ourselves when we look at such images.
It’s because a movement in a photograph is not at all related to the object’s movement. It’s based on the lines, forms, directions, and tones by which the object is represented.
Is it then wrong to call these visual forces for movements?
The Russian painter and art theorist, Wassily Kandinsky declares in connection with the analysis of properties of point, line, and form, “I replace the almost universally acceptable expression motion with tension. Tension is the built-in force of an element, as such, it is only an element of an active movement that should be added a direction.”
In other words, movement as a perceptual force is the direction of a specific tension.
It is a property built into the object’s forms, shapes and colors.
The conditions that create a search in the image, is the actual object itself.
Movement, extension, contraction and repulsion can all be experienced in and between the dynamic of the forms.
The most effective images are those where the photographer has managed to subordinate the motives natural forms and strive to simplify and highlight their expressive lines, shapes, tones and textures.
A good artist manages to extract these meaningful visual qualities in the subject and make them dominant, while she/he avoids or suppresses the parts of the motive that do not contribute to the image’s central idea.
During the discussion of what to understand by the concept of form (shape), Rudolf Arnheim mentions that what defines the shape is not only the outer boundary or contour of the object, but also a structural skeleton. A kind of inner line that reproduces the outer shape. A kind of reduced structure that often reproduces the shape’s directional movement. When you describe a spiral staircase, you don’t do it by explaining its outline in details, but by swinging a pointing hand in a spiral motion.
Let’s again quote Arnheim: ”Our vision is not a mechanical record of elements, but rather the ability to perceive structural patterns that are important. Visual experience is dynamic.”
Visual perception is not just the experience of an event of objects, their shapes, colors, sizes and movements, but first and foremost, an interaction of controlling tensions and psychological forces, which both have size and direction.
Let’s Try To Observe A Few Of Arnheim’s Examples
The black circle in this square is located slightly away from the square center and we experience the scene’s asymmetry as a thrill. The circle strives towards the center of the square.
However, if the circle comes closer to the edges, it is attracted by the edge:
The circle is not only influenced by the center of the square, but also the symmetrical axes.
Any location that coincides with a significant link in this structural skeleton will add an element of stability.
The structural skeleton serves as a frame of reference that helps determine the role of each pixel in the whole balance system.
Photo by Martin Eder
The corners and the center are ‘magnets’ with different power.
The balance point between a corner and the center is somewhat closer to the corner, because the center is strongest.
Arnheim explains our visual perception of the world as one coherent field of forces and summarizes its examples with the following words: “The message that the physical world has sent to the eye.
But an longlasting experience’s (its expression and meaning) originates
entirely from the activity of the perceptual forces.
Any line drawn on a piece of paper is like a stone that has become thrown into a lake. Seeing is the perception of action. ”
The Visual Experience
Every aspect of a visual experience has its psychological genome in the nervous system. You can imagine these processes of interaction between the parts and the whole as a general phenomenon.
The visual weight of an element in an image, and its attraction /repulsion of neighboring elements, thus depends on the location of the element and by its size, color, complexity, isolation, smoothness and orientation (visual direction).
The mentioned qualitative visual forces exist everywhere around us. They are an integral part of our daily lives and for most people go by without noticing. Every subject contains countless visual powers.
What good and effective composition is about, is to discover these lines, shapes, tones and textures in a motive and then put them together in the camera’s viewfinder in a way that satisfies the photographer and also is visible to the viewer.
I hope this Blog post will give you ideas to understand The Stop effect so you wouldt start implementing The first step of the formula in your work.