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The 508 Guide to 
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Photo Composition #1

When the Subject is a Person

There are usually two reasons for presenting a photograph of a person. One is to show that person engaged in some type of activity that somehow relates to the text on the page. The other reason is to present the person as the actual subject of the accompanying text.

The image below was taken with a digital camera. This of course saved me the trouble of using film and then having to scan the image, but of course the quality is not 100% either. The original graphic was 373 high by 493 wide, which I then reduced to 227x300 to enhance readability and reduce download times.

300H x 227W 17,143 Bytes
As far as snapshots go, this one is not composed that badly, but I would not complain if my little camera had an accurate viewfinder! (when the going gets tough, blame the equipment.) So, if the composition is not so bad, what is the problem?

Landscape means ACTION!
Our problem has to be defined based on what our objective for using this photograph is. As we discussed a moment ago, if we want our graphic to tie to a description of an activity, we are most likely to choose what is called landscape orientation.

If all of a sudden you find yourself saying, "Hey, that's like that portrait and landscape thing when I use my my printer!" then you understand where we are heading. Landscape orientation is great for combining a human subject with an object that together creation action, or the potential for action.

You will see I have taken the virtual crayon to my fine specimen. The lines I have drawn actually have a meaning to them. Please notice that the blue lines form the border of the photograph I want to end up with, and the red lines divide the picture into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. We are now ready to crop our picture.

The importance of the eyes in your images cannot be stressed enough. In many cultures, direct eye contact can be a sign of disrespect. There are many times when we will turn our gaze to the ground to show submission. When in an elevator, where do your eyes tend to focus? Don't believe this? Go find a large dog you do not know and look him right in the eyes. I promise the last thing to go through your mind will be his molars!

The most important point to remember in working with a picture of an individual, is that the eyes are the focalpoint of the image. This means that the eyes never end up in the middle of the picture, but rather you try to get them in the upper-right or upper-left third. (Depending on the direction of the action) The subject of the action, in this case a telephone, should be far to the left, and ideally even further down than shown here.

Let's put this photograph to work for us and see how it all comes together.

We hope you never have a problem with your product, but if you ever should, our firm prides itself on its commitment to client service. Experienced service representatives are always at the ready, eagerly awaiting your call.

149H x 194W 8,921 Bytes

Portrait means PERSON!
Now we will take a look at the portrait orientation. Again, we want to use portrait when the person in the picture is the subject of the accompanying text or copy. Looking at our original photograph below, you will see that the placement of the lines has changed. Instead of the largest dimension being width, it is now height. Since our image is much less complex now, I also disposed of the extra vertical lines.

As with our first picture, the eyes are the focal point of our photograph. The eyes do not need to be in the center of the top third. The idea here is to place the eyes in the top third. Then, fill the rest of the space with as much of the subject as you care to include.

Just to squeeze a last bit of mileage out of my photograph, did you notice that I reversed the final image below after cropping it? This is a great way to use part of an image more than once, and not have it too noticeable.


154H x 104W 4,462 Bytes

The average customer service representative in our office has over five years of experience. Each has received special training in both technical support, and in psychology. Be assured that when you call, a warm, caring, and expert person will be there to help you.

What did we accomplish?
On this page, we have managed to take a, "Hey, check out the new camera- CLICK!" snapshot and turn it into two workable pieces of stock art. More importantly, we:
  • Eliminated extraneous background clutter, thus creating images that download faster.

  • Sculpted our final images to work with our message, providing more reinforcement for our theme.

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