A blog that focuses on the photography of Dean J. Birinyi, an interior and architectural photographer based in San Francisco, CA.

A photographers tools

I was in a discussion about the tools a photographer uses to create photographs. Most of the photographers were concerned with their lights, lenses, etc. but since I work with available light these days I have other tools I use to create my imagery: luminance, form, flow, color, texture, pattern, perspective, depth, weather, context, negative space and time. These tools are not a device you hold in your hand but but when used to create a composition in a photograph they are “devices” nonetheless.

When used with skill these tools help me create stunning imagery without altering the charachter of the spaces in which I work. Images such as the one seen here use the interplay of contrast, pattern, color and flow to direct the viewers eye into and around the image frame. I involve the viewer in the image by engaging their subconscious mind on an instinctive level.

Our vision has two basic components: the mechanical and the cognitive.

The mechanical component is the eye. The eye is designed to detect contrast, contrast can be created by luminance value, or with color. If you give the eye contrasts to detect it will be attracted to the area of greatest contrast reflexively. The cognitive element of our vision is designed to identify patterns and our attention is reflexively drawn to anomalies within those patterns. Through strategic use of contrast, color and pattern we can direct the eye to follow a predictable path through the image.

In this image the area of greatest contrast is the black stools against the white cabinetry, the red upholstery helps accentuate the contrast. This is the entrance point of the image. The pattern of the cabinetry and the flaw in that pattern created by the counter, fruit basket and backsplash draws the eye up from the bottom of the frame. The contrast of the range hood draws the eye across the frame to the left where the bright window attracts the eye. Then the form of the cabinets helps lead the eye down to where the bright color & contrast of the fruit bowls against the reflection of the window catches the eye and leads it down to the lower portion of the image where the red upholstery and high contrast of the stools catches the eye and starts the cycle all over.

The light fixture is positioned to prevent the eye from following the strong line of the soffit and crown molding out of the frame and refocus attention on the vertical pattern of the cabinet. The leafy greens are serving the same function, they prevent the eye from following the line of the counter out of the frame.

That is an example of how to lead the eye through an image by engaging both the mechanical and cognitive aspects of human vision, and this is made possible through application of the non-physical tools I have at my command.

So, you can see how it is possible to create a dramatic and stunning image without reinventing the character and mood of a space that is often the result when using supplemental lighting.