Visual Weight Photography and leading the eye of the viewer

You cannot go through Grand Teton National Park without seeing a Bison. In fact, seeing one bison is probably not possible. They walk the plain in group of 10, 20 or more.  The Bison is the largest terrestrial mammal in North America.  In Grand Teton they are crossing the streets in front of cars like if the whole world belongs to them.

Drawing-the-Eye_1024x1024 (1)As you can imagine, Visual Weight Photography is not about how heavy the subject is…  In this picture, the Bison has the biggest weight.  I am not talking about pounds or kilograms but at what attract the eyes of the viewer.  Visual Weight is a very important concept in photography.  However, understanding Visual Weight is an advanced concept.  In a picture, what’s attracting the eyes of the viewer visual weight more than other elements.

As such humans have more visual weight than animals.  Smiling face has more visual weight than somebody without emotion.  Bright areas more than shadows and warm colors more than cool colors.  Now there is not a strict and specific order.  You have to look at the picture and figure out the weight of each element based on what is the most important to us.

In this picture, the Bison has the most weight.  Being the living thing that is the biggest in the picture makes it have more weight.  The bright golden herbs have the second biggest weight in the picture followed by the flock of birds.  At least this is how I see these elements.
When seeing this picture for the first time our eyes are immediately attracted to the bison, then the golden fields of herbs followed by the birds.  Should the Bison have his head up and looking in the general direction of the Camera, this would have increase the Bison weight.

Visual Weight photography is very subjective and depending on the viewer, the relative weight of elements is likely to change.  When creating a picture, the relative weight of elements could be used to help the viewer travel in the picture in a certain order.

This short article can’t pretend to be an exhaustive “How to” guide to Visual Weight in Photography.  Should you be interested to know more about Visual Weight, also known as Visual Mass,  buy the book “Drawing the Eye” from David Duchemin.  It is a short guide on Visual Mass and at 5$, it is a great investment.  Take the time to review other books from Craft and Vision.