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In the monochrome section, we discussed the importance of negative (free or open) space as useful for text placement. Most photographers and artists work in color and many, if not most, color images are what could be called “cluttered” in that they lack negative space in which to place a haiku. This complicates the designer’s choices with respect to font type, color, tonality and placement.

The color image below has no negative space and is very “busy.” The haiku I’ve selected, written by Neal Whitman (party of one/whisky, water back/last call) relies on the viewer being able to clearly see the man sitting alone at a table on the left and the social groupings at the bar on the right. Where, then to place the haiku text so as not to interfere with the impact of the image itself?


10. Placing text in the photograph: It's not that you can't put text on this image and make it show up. If your font color and size are bright enough and large enough, they will show through the busyness of the image:


But, clearly the white color even though mild in tone isn’t best for this image because it competes with the image and catches the eye, making it more difficult to view the image behind the words. Here’s another try with a less blocky font (Karolinger) using a muted color and intensity taken from the lighter browns on the far wall of the image:


The question to ask yourself, as designer, is whether the eye easily moves between the haiku and image and whether the image is diminished or left as it was meant to be by the image maker. My answer is that this text presentation works well and doesn’t significantly interfere with or further clutter the image. But you may disagree. In that case, what to do?

11. Placing Text on a Frame: If you have a very cluttered image, another option is to create a mat (or frame) and place the text and credits off the image on the mat. When doing so, I think that it’s still important to match the text color with the muted colors and color tones in the image and to provide a mat that works well to support both image and text. A white font on the mat would be a bit like a spotlight, catching the eye and interfering with the image even though the text isn’t on the image itself.


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