Our eyes have been trained to look at normal real-life subjects smack at the center. This makes sense. The center creates a sense of symmetry and balance with the view of our naked eye. But when it comes to photography, placing your subject just a little bit off-center can make viewing your photograph quite an experience.
It may be quite taboo to defy symmetry and balance in composing your photograph, but placing your subject off-center provides an array of advantages, too.
- Off-Centered Photo Subjects are More Intriguing
Your subject is the photograph’s point of interest. When you were composing the subject/s against the background, you’ve already imagined that this is also how exactly it is going to be viewed by the audience. Placing the subject at the center may seem like an automatic thought, but photographs appear more intriguing and artistic if they are off-center.
For instance, your subject is the tiny rosebud you found in the garden. Placing the rosebud at the center will make it a dead giveaway as the subject. But placing it randomly, somewhere else within the frame, will warrant the picture another look. Why? Because the human mind is conditioned to find subjects at the center in real-life perspective and an off-centered subject will keep the viewer hooked, intrigued and glued to the photograph until they figures it out.
- Off-Centered Photo Subjects Gives a Sense of Space and Direction to the Whole Picture
The rule of thirds gives you a great guide on placing the subject off-center and gives your photo a sense of size and space. For instance, if you are taking a picture of a child with her eyes looking to the right, placing the subject on the left gives the audience a motion to follow. Otherwise, if the subject is placed right at the center and looks right into the lens, the photo will come out like a mugshot or a passport.
Human subjects are ideally given room to “look into.” Whether you’re subject is looking up into the sky, the ocean or the mountains, placing him off center, gives the picture a sense of vastness and emotion. The idea of having a room to look into makes the picture not only artistic, but also sensible and logical.
- But This Does Not Mean You Can Never Place Photo Subjects at the Center Anymore
It is your creative freedom to frame the photo in any way you want. You can still place subjects at the center if it feels right to you. In fact, there are instances when subjects are better placed dead center. Classic portraits and head shots are the best example of centered subjects.
To keep your subject interesting, it is best to practice the rule of thirds in framing. This rule will not only guide you from placing the subject in the best position, but also allows for enough room to “look into.” And remember, proper placement of your subject in the frame, whether dead center or not, can have a profound impact on the message you want to relay to the viewer.