Here’s an image by Canadian photographer George Yackulic. I've placed Yackulic's image in a neutral gray frame so that we can step aside from the issue of framing which I and others have dealt with in earlier essays.
I like the image because it brings to mind my many walks on beaches, the openness and expansiveness I feel when I see, hear, smell the sea and feel tidal surges washing across my feet. When I'm at the beach, it seems that all other things, the mental gymnastics, the worries and concerns in particular, fade away. I see the future of the boy as a blank slate, yet to be written on, on the path to becoming a man. What will be written today and tomorrow: girls? sport? hobbies? computer games? academics? Everything is possible.
I also like the image because compositionally and for text placement, I think that the image is ideal. Let’s look at the images characteristics to learn why.
1. Negative space: This is the portion of an image that is relatively unmarked. It's not just 'blank' space, but instead is an important element of the design of an image—one key to aesthetic composition.
The negative space in this image is important because it offers room for text; however, the placement of anything extra on an image, including text, will to an extent diminish the intent and impact of the photographer’s original composition.
Negative space is not just a photography concept. Some haiga fine art images such as those by an'ya (in Haigaonline 10/2, 2009) are also monochrome and have negative space similar to Yackulic's.
2. Contrast: Photographers give considerable thought to contrast and composition. Contrast in photographic composition is an effective means of directing the viewer's attention to a center of interest. In black-and-white photography, contrast is the difference between the lightest tone (white to light gray) to the darkest tone (medium gray to black). Yackulic's photograph ranges from near pure white tones and to a mid-tone gray (the boy's pants). The darker tones of the boy placed among the lighter tones of the waves and negative space directs the viewer's attention to the boy. The contrast is sufficient to direct our eye to the boy, which is the central feature of the image. An'ya's artwork ranges from pure white to a fairly dark black. It has greater contrast than Yackulak's image. In an'ya's painting, the eye alternates between the brushstrokes and text.
4. Composition: Directional Lines: This image follows a third design principle, namely, that the other elements of the image (wave and shore lines in this case) lead the eye to the central center of interest (the boy).
In sum, this image is ideal both compositionally and for placing text on it. This isn’t to say that an image must have all of these compositional elements for text placement to work effectively. On the next pages, we’ll examine different text designs for the image.