Tuesday, 25 November 2008

What is Gestalt psychology?

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought that looks at the human mind and behaviour as a whole. Originating in the work of Max Wertheimer, Gestalt psychology formed partially as a response to the structuralism of Wilhelm Wundt. The development of this area of psychology was influenced by a number of thinkers, including Immanuel Kant, Ernst Mach and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The word Gestalt in German literally means "shape" or "figure."
  • Wilhelm Wundt is best known for establishing the first psychology lab in Liepzig, Germany, generally considered the official beginning of psychology as a field of science separate from philosophy and physiology. In addition to this accomplishment, Wundt also established the psychology journal Philosophical Studies. Structuralism was the first school of psychology and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components. Researchers tried to understand the basic elements of consciousness using a method known as introspection. By today’s scientific standards, the experimental methods used to study the structures of the mind were too subjective—the use of introspection led to a lack of reliability in results.
  • Other critics argue that structuralism was too concerned with internal behaviour, which is not directly observable and cannot be accurately measured.
Gestalt psychology is a theory of mind and brain that proposes that the operational principle of the brain is holistic (meaning that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”, that is the idea that all the properties of a given system (biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave. Therefore, reductionism is sometimes seen as the opposite of holism.), parallel, and analogue, with self-organizing tendencies; or, that the whole is different from the sum of its parts. The Gestalt effect refers to the form-forming capability of our senses, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of figures and whole forms instead of just a collection of simple lines and curves.

"The fundamental "formula" of Gestalt theory might be expressed in this way,” Max Wertheimer wrote in 1924. “There are wholes, the behaviour of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes.”

Have you ever noticed how a series of flashing lights often appears to be moving, such as neon signs or strands of Christmas lights? According to Gestalt psychology, this apparent movement happens because our minds fill in missing information. This belief that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts led to the discovery of several different phenomena that occur during perception. Based upon this belief, Gestalt psychologists developed a set of principles to explain perceptual organization, or how smaller objects are grouped to form larger ones. These principles are often referred to as the “laws of perceptual organization.”

Prägnanz (German. n. conciseness, concision, quality of being brief and comprehensive, succinctness) is the fundamental principle of gestalt perception, also referred to as the law of prägnanz, which says that we tend to order our experience in a manner that is regular, orderly, symmetric, and simple. According to Robert Sternberg (See Cognitive Psychology, 3rd Ed., Thomson Wadsworth© 2003), Gestalt psychologists attempt to discover refinements of the law of prägnanz, and this involves writing down laws which hypothetically allow us to predict the interpretation of sensation, what are often called “gestalt laws.” However, it is important to note that while Gestalt psychologists call these phenomena “laws,” a more accurate term would be “principles of perceptual organization.” These principles are much like heuristics, which are mental shortcuts for solving problems. You will find below some of the different ‘Gestalt laws’ of perceptual organization, with the law of Prägnanz being the most general law.

Law of Prägnanz

The law of Pragnanz is sometimes referred to as the law of good figure or the law of simplicity. This law holds that objects in the environment are seen in a way that makes as simple as possible. According to the law, we are innately driven to experience things in as good a gestalt as possible. “Good” can mean many things here, such a regular, orderly, simplicity, symmetry, and so on, which then refer to specific gestalt laws. For example, a set of dots outlining the shape of a star is likely to be perceived as a star, not as a set of dots. We tend to complete the figure, make it the way it “should” be, finish it. Like we somehow manage to see this as a "B"...

One very important aspect of Prägnanz is figure – ground relationship. This aspect is often elaborated as an extension of general law of Prägnanz or the law of similarity. Camouflage has a direct bearing on figure-ground relationship.

However, it was Edgar Rubin, a Danish psychologist, who was the first to systematically investigate the figure-ground phenomenon. The phenomenon captures the idea that in perceiving a visual field, some objects take a prominent role (the figures) while others recede into the background (the ground). The visual field is thus divided into these two basic parts. This effect is often used by smart logo makers, as in the three figures suggest: The logo of visitnorway.com (see figure left-above) can be viewed as both three separate elements of blue, green and navy colour. It may, however, also be viewed as a person stretching his/her arms into the air. Similarly, the logo of the Gnome Desktop Environment (see figure on the right) can be viewed as both a "G" and a footprint. Lastly, the Macintosh logo (see figure below)be viewed as a regular happy face and a happy face in profile (looking at a computer screen).

Common to these logos is that you can focus on only one "interpretation" at a time; you cannot observe both the figure and ground at the same time, as ground will become figure when shifting the focus.

It should be noted that the figure-ground is most often exemplified using the Rubin Face/Vase Illusion, named after Edgar Rubin.

Law of Closure

According to the law of closure, things are grouped together if they seem to complete some entity. Our minds often ignore contradictory information and fills in gaps in information. In other words, the mind may experience elements it does not perceive through sensation, in order to complete a regular figure (that is, to increase regularity) i.e. the law of closure says that, if something is missing in an otherwise complete figure, we will tend to add it. A triangle, for example, with a small part of its edge missing, will still be seen as a triangle. We will “close” the gap.

In other words, the law of closure posits that we perceptually close up, or complete, objects that are not, in fact, complete. In the figure on the left the letters 'I', 'B', and 'M' although the shapes we see, in fact, are only lines of white space of differing length hovering above each other.

Similarly, we see the figure on Paul Thagard's book (see figure on the left) as forming a three-dimensional box although all we see, in fact, is 24 dissimilar red shapes (count for yourself!) on a dark red background. The figure above is the typical textbook example of the law of closure; we perceive a circle and not 8 individual circles.

The Gestalt approach can be said to be a "bottom-up" theory as it starts from the bottom (the aspects of the stimuli that influence perception) and work its way up to higher-order cognitive processes. An example of another bottom-up theory (of perception) that is well-known in the HCI community is James Gibson's theory of "direct perception" (see affordances and perception).

Law of Similarity

The law of similarity holds that things which are similar in some way appear to be grouped together. Grouping can occur in both visual and auditory stimuli. In other words, the mind groups similar elements into collective entities or totalities. This similarity might depend on relationships of form, color, size, or brightness. According to the law, we will tend to group similar items together, to see them as forming a gestalt, within a larger form. Here is a simple typographic example:


It is just natural for us to see the o’s as a line within a field of x’s.

Law of Proximity

According to the law of proximity, things that are near each other seem to be grouped together. In other words, spatial or temporal proximity of elements may induce the mind to perceive a collective or totality i.e., things that are close together as seen as belonging together. For example:




You are much more likely to see three lines of close-together *’s than 14 vertical collections of 3 *’s each.

The law of proximity posits that when we perceive a collection of objects, we will see objects close to each other as forming a group. In figure on the left, we perceive the MTV logo and the logo for the Europe Music Awards as forming a group in the top left corner and the logos of the sponsors as forming a group in the bottom right corner. The white space separating the two groups of logos is used to indicate 'grouping', and the proximity of the logos of each groups is thus used to this end. Thus, a semantic separation of 'organisers' from 'sponsors' is achieved via structuring the graphical layout in accordance with this simple principle of perceptual organisation.

Figure, see on the right, is taken from Kazaa Media Desktop, where the law of proximity is used in designing the user interface of the popular peer-to-peer (P2P) software. As shown by the screen dump, the user can choose between P2P and web search. The group of radio buttons underneath are only associated with the P2P search and not the web search. To signal this association to the user, the vertical row of radio buttons are placed comparatively closer to the P2P-search radio button. Figure below is a typical textbook example, exemplifying how the law of proximity groups the items into 3 groups as opposed to 8 individual items.

Law of Symmetry

According to the law, symmetrical images are perceived collectively, even in spite of distance. The law of symmetry captures the idea that when we perceive objects we tend to perceive them as symmetrical shapes that form around their centre. Most objects can be divided in two more or less symmetrical halves and when for example we see two unconnected elements that are symmetrical, we unconsciously integrate them into one coherent object (or percept). The more alike objects are, they more they tend to be grouped.

In the figure on the left, CSC Finland's logo is perceived as an integral whole although the two constituent geometrical shapes seem to be pointing in different directions and have differing colours.

A typical textbook example of the law of symmetry (see figure on the right-below), consists of a configuration of a number of brackets. When perceiving the configuration, we see three pairs of symmetrical brackets as opposed to 6 individual brackets, or two pairs and two singles. This happens despite what is suggested by some of the brackets immediate proximity to each other. Despite the pressure of proximity to group the brackets nearest each other together, symmetry overwhelms our perception and makes us see them as pairs of symmetrical brackets.

Law of Continuity

The law of continuity holds that points that are connected by straight or curving lines are seen in a way that follows the smoothest path. Rather than seeing separate lines and angles, lines are seen as belonging together. That is to say that the mind continues visual, auditory, and kinetic patterns.

When we can see a line, for example (as in figure on the left), as continuing through another line, rather than stopping and starting, we will do so, as in this example, which we see as composed of two lines, not as a combination of two angles.

Law of Common Fate

According to this law, elements with the same moving direction are perceived as a collective or unit. The law of common fate states that when objects move in the same direction, we tend to see them as a unit. In the other words, the law of common fate is a Gestalt principle of organization holding that aspects of perceptual field that move or function in a similar manner will be perceived as a unit.

Gestalt grouping laws do not seem to act independently. Instead, they appear to influence each other, so that the final perception is a combination of the entire Gestalt grouping laws acting together. Gestalt theory applies to all aspects of human learning, although it applies most directly to perception and problem-solving. The law of common fate is one of the visual perception laws as theorized by gestalt psychologists. Paul Martin Lester, the author of Visual Communication, an expert in the field wrote: “the law of common fate…A viewer mentally groups five arrows or five raised hands pointing to the sky because they all point in the same direction. An arrow or a hand pointed in opposite direction will create tension, because the viewer will not see it as part of the upwardly directed whole."

Gestalt’s law of common fate is a pretty simple concept. It is basically referring to visual directional lines within a design or layout. In a photograph, if two or more people are moving in the same direction, they have created a directional line known as the law of common fate. Together, they have a common fate or destiny. Another example of the law of common fate could include similar shapes aimed in the same direction. You might wonder why the law of common fate is of importance to artists. First of all, when two objects (whether it be shapes or organic forms) are pointed in the same direction in a layout, the directional lines become dominant in a design. So, if two or more powerful shapes are aimed at or moving in a certain direction, an artist knows to put the message at the point of destination.

Directional lines push our eyes around a page. This can be a problem every bit as much as bonus. For instance, visual collisions frustrate the viewing audience. It can cause too much tension and cause anxiety for the reader which in turn, makes the layout uninviting and too intense.

If a candid photograph of a moving car is heading to the right, the law of common fate dictates that the directional line is pointing to the right. Then again, if a candid photograph of a car is aimed towards the left and the image is part of a design, the directional line is now aimed towards the left. Therefore, if a car is headed towards the right (on an image), the image of the car should be placed towards the left-hand side of a layout, because our eyes read from left to right. This is why the law of common fate is so important. The law of common fate should not be ignored in graphic designs and advertisements. Understanding the law of common fate and how directional lines work on layouts can make all the difference in how information is read and understood.


  1. Vacche, Angela Dalle. (2003). The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory and Art History. Rutgers University Press.
  2. Lester, Paul Martin. (2005). Visual Communication: Images with Messages. Thomson Wadsworth.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Visual Analysis of Mediated Images

Though a visual may be analysed in many ways, of late a convention has been established to study under Six major schools of thought.

  1. The personal perspective deals with an emotional subjective opinion. ‘What do I think of the picture’. It’s the first response or first thought that crosses your mind on viewing the picture. It bears personal bias and prejudices.
  2. The historical perspective helps to determine the importance of the work based on the time period that it was created in. ‘When was this created? What was the social setup at that period of time?
  3. The technical perspective tries to draw a relation b/w the medium and the message. ‘What medium has been used to create the message? How has the creator expressed himself through the medium chosen.
  4. The ethical perspective looks at the moral and ethical responsibilities of the artist. ‘What are the moral responsibilities of the creator? Is his portrayal of the image ethical?
  5. The cultural perspective relates the symbols used in the image to the society. ‘What symbols has the creator used? What is the message conveyed by them?
  6. The critical perspective is a rational conclusion that the viewer draws from the image. It is a personal reaction though free of bias and prejudice. ‘What have I concluded after critically analyzing the picture? How different was my first opinion from the second?

Aim of Critical analysis: A producer of messages must have an understanding of the culture of the audience and use symbols that are comprehensible by them. It helps a viewer understand, interpret and appreciate art.

List all the Objects and Elements

One must notice all the objects and elements in the picture and draw a distinction between the most important and the less important. The placements of elements gives a sense of movement within the picture hence the positioning of objects must be noted. Centre, left, right, top and bottom. Shadows and lighting suggest what part is in focus and give a sense of depth. The location helps in interpretation of the message. One must categorize the purpose as news, art, personal, or any other.
The List

• 4 girls
• Water
• Old building
• Small boys
• Road

The Composition

Placement of Objects
• Foreground: Girls in centre
• Background: Water + Kids (left) playing
• Background: Brightly lit Building on the right
• Background: High contrast / Darker building behind the boys
The girls in the centre are the subject of the picture. The water in the background seems to be coming from a nearby hose pipe or fire hydrant. The girls seem drenched in water. One can see small boys still playing in the water in the background.

Study visual cues
Shadows and lighting
•Illuminated building on right hand side
•Light source is in front of the girls at an angle above them
•Building behind the boys is in shady region

The light and shadow suggests its little after 15:00 hours. It sets the mood of summer and playful indulgence of kids by drenching themselves. There is a sense of innocence.

Study visual cues...
•Objective- perception of colour & its characteristics
•Comparative- association of colour with objects, events, emotions
•Subjective- Every different colour has different associations in different cultures and societies.
•The girls dark complexion.
•The light shades worn suggests summer season.
•The dark shades suggests old and shanty town.


The triangle shape of the girls is a dynamic shape. its base gives a sense of stability. They are also in a group and seem like a whole unit.

The buildings give a sense of serenity and form the base for the girls that seem in front of it.

'Eight' depth Cues

Many representational visual texts give a very strong feeling of depth despite the fact that they are painted on flat surfaces that lack any depth.

In trying to depict depth, there are several restrictions on the techniques that an artist can use. First, most visual texts, like paintings, drawings, illustrations, and photographs, are two-dimensional. There is no actual depth in the artwork so one must understand, at least intuitively, what information is in the environment that allow us to perceive depth. These sources of information are commonly called depth or distance cues.

A consequence of the two-dimensional nature of painting and pictures is that we lose all the depth information that comes from the fact that we have two eyes. These binocular, or two-eye, depth cues require true depth and thus we will not discuss them in context with conventional visual texts. For example, there is the binocular depth cue called disparity. Disparity arises from the fact that our two eyes have a slightly different view of the world. To allow you to see disparity requires either real depth or two images developed as if from different positions like our eyes.

The artist, in trying to paint or draw, is, therefore, limited to depth cues that (a) need no more than one eye to work, and (b) do not require a moving world. Fortunately there are a collection of such depth cues, a subset of monocular cues called pictorial cues by some authors (Goldstein, 1989).

  1. Interposition
  2. Space
  3. Size
  4. Colour
  5. Lighting
  6. Textural gradient
  7. Time
  8. Perspective
1. Interposition

The first depth cue to be discussed here is interposition which is the partial blocking of a more distant object by a nearer object. Note how the the building is blocked by the girls. In fact, if you notice the kid behind the girls on your right is partially blocking the building too. But, it is the girls who land up blocking him too. Thus creating an illusion as to what is in the background and what is in the front. It is the interposition, overlap, that causes the sense of depth to arise. Usually the impression of depth caused by interposition alone is not very strong.

Notice the foreground figures of two girls with partially blocked figures of other two taking a piggy ride, which are all that are important for our present purposes. Here relative size and even relative height play little role in giving the depth order of the various figures (all the figures are roughly the same level and same size). Shadowing plays an important role in giving each of the figures their sense of three-dimensionality, but to tell who is in what position relative to another, the principle cue is interposition.

2. Space

Space is the frame in which an image is located. With a natural scene, the space depends on how close you are to the subject. Standing in an open field gives the feeling of a large amount of space and enhances the feeling of depth. If an object is close to the eyes, depth perception is limited.
Distance is related to space and helps in our perception of depth.

There is a lot of space behind the girls suggesting they are far from the buildings. The water is in the background and the wet girls suggest they had been in the water previously.

3. Size

Size can help create the illusion of the depth perception if the viewer is aware of the object’s actual size. A jumbo jet seen from a distance is a small bird sized object. If someone has no idea what the jumbo jets are, then the viewer does not react to this depth cue. Likewise, in this photograph we can guess average size (both height and size) and average size of two storied building in the backdrop we become aware of the depth (both in terms of space and distance) between the girls (foreground) and the building (background).

Size, consequently, is closely related to our ability to determine an object’s distance. Distance is related to space and helps in our perception of depth.

Size also is related to scale and mental attention. Without knowing an object’s size, we have to view it next to an object of known size in order to determine its size.

4. Colour

Correct interpretation of colour, and especially lighting cues, allows the beholder to determine the shape of objects, and thus their arrangement in space.

The colour of distant objects is also shifted towards the blue end of the spectrum. (e.g. distant mountains.) Painters, notably Cezanne, employ "warm" pigments (red, yellow and orange) to bring features forward towards the viewer, and "cool" ones (blue, violet, and blue-green) to indicate the part of a form that curves away from the picture plane.

High contrast pictures with great differences between light and dark tones seem closer than objects with more neutral tones colour.

5. Lighting

The exact shape and description of the shadows changes depending on the direction of the light. There are certain general rules about shadows.

First, in a place with only one source of light, e.g. outside, the shadows from all the objects in the area all go in the same direction. As a corollary of this rule, it is certainly true for all natural lights, and for most artificial lights, that the light comes from above to some degree. We do not usually experience getting illuminated from the floor.

Second, for a solid object sticking up the side of the object in shadow is the side away from the light but for a hole in the ground, the shadow is on the side near the light.

Shadow can play a very powerful role in defining form by giving the object a three-dimensional feel as in the title to this page. In addition, artists can take good advantage of shadow to define form by highlighting how different portions of an object are at different depths and therefore the object closer to the light will cast a shadow on the more distant object.

Shadow can play a broader role in defining depth between objects since objects that are in shadow must be farther from the light than objects that are not in shadow.

Differences in light intensities can communicate depth. Carefully crafted lighting design provides subject’s separation from background. If brightness level of the back light is slightly higher than the lights in front then this separation is more distinct. However, no backlight has been used in this photograph. Yet, the prevalence of shadows (largely in mid-space of the picture plane and the shows of the subject indicate subject’s volume and provides the viewer with reasonable illusion of depth perspective.

6.Textural gradient

Related in a sense to relative size but a depth cue in its own right is what has been termed texture gradient. Most surfaces, such as walls and roads and a field of flowers in bloom, have a texture. As the surface gets farther away from us this texture gets finer and appears smoother (Gibson, 1950).

A surface or field that recedes in depth has a texture that gets finer. That is very different from a wall where the surface is approximately the same distance from a person at all points. For example, imagine yourself standing and staring at a brick wall which, instead of receding in depth like a cobblestone road, rises up in front of you. Here the texture, in this case the brick alternating with the mortar, will have about the same roughness all over the surface and provide a clue that the surface does not recede in depth. In addition, texture may play a role in helping us determine the size of an object. Regardless of how far an object is away from us, it covers roughly the same amount of surface, and thus texture, which can help us determine the actual size of an object (Gibson, 1950).

7. Time

Time and space are intricately related concepts that find expression in visual messages. In one sense, time as a depth cue refers to the first element a viewer sees in a frame. That picture will be in the foreground of the viewer’s mind, with other images seen later in the background.

8. Perspective

It is a complex depth perception cue due to cultural factor which comes into play each time we try to interpret depth. However, Perspective, in the context of vision and visual perception, is the way in which objects appear to the eye based on their spatial attributes, or their dimensions and the position of the eye relative to the objects.

As objects become more distant, they appear smaller, because their angular diameter (visual angle) decreases. Perspective is also seen in the way the parallel lines of how railway tracks appear to be meeting at a distant point (the vanishing point) on the horizon. When used in this sense, the 'horizon' is always at the level of the viewer's eye. Because the Earth is round, the true horizon (the line dividing the surface and the sky) is lower than this level. The difference is imperceptibly small when standing on the surface, but noticeable from great height (a person standing on a mountain can see further than someone at ground level).

According to Evelyn Hatcher, there are three major forms of perspective which she details in her book Visual Metaphors: A Methodological Study in Visual Communication. These are as follows:
Illusionary Perspective: An illusionary perspective can be achieved through size, colour, lighting, interposition, and linear perspective. When you stand on a railroad track and look down the ties, the steel rails seem to converge into a single area, or vanishing point, in the distance. This trait of parallel lines when seen at a distance is called linear perspective. This aspect of illusionary perspective that provides the illusion of three dimensional depth in a painting or a photograph is what artists were trying to duplicate with the aid of Leonardo box and camera obscura.

Geometrical Perspective: In geometrical perspective the artist shows near figures in the lower portion of the picture and objects farther away higher in the frame on a vertical line above the near object. This type of perspective is common among traditional Japanese and Mayan artwork. Children often exhibit this type of perspective in their drawings.

Conceptual Perspective: Conceptual perspective is compositional trait that relies on a more symbolic definition of depth perception than the other types of perspective. It can be divided into two types: multi-view and social. With the multi-view perspective, a viewer can see many different sides of an object at the same time. The picture is often an X-ray, or transparent, view of the object. Near objects overlap far objects only by the outside edges or lines that make up their shapes. Pablo Picasso liked to use this type of perspective. In social perspective the most important person in a group picture, a government or corporate leader, is larger in size than other, less important people. A viewer often assumes power relationships because of social perspective. In a picture of a couple the man’s dominance over the woman often is signified by the man being nearer and larger in the frame with his hand resting on or arm wrapped around the woman’s shoulder. Over the past three decades, the feminist movement has made advertisers and others more sensitive to nonverbal negative stereotypes such as these.


‘8’ Depth cues

1. Interposition
2. Space
3. Size
4. Colour
5. Lighting
6. Textural gradient
7. Time
8. Perspective

Many representational visual texts give a very strong feeling of depth despite the fact that they are painted on flat surfaces that lack any depth.

In trying to depict depth, there are several restrictions on the techniques that an artist can use. First, most visual texts, like paintings, drawings, illustrations, and photographs, are two-dimensional. There is no actual depth in the artwork so one must understand, at least intuitively, what information is in the environment that allow us to perceive depth. These sources of information are commonly called depth or distance cues.

A consequence of the two-dimensional nature of painting and pictures is that we lose all the depth information that comes from the fact that we have two eyes. These binocular, or two-eye, depth cues require true depth and thus we will not discuss them in context with conventional visual texts. For example, there is the binocular depth cue called disparity. Disparity arises from the fact that our two eyes have a slightly different view of the world. To allow you to see disparity requires either real depth or two images developed as if from different positions like our eyes.

The artist, in trying to paint or draw, is, therefore, limited to depth cues that (a) need no more than one eye to work, and (b) do not require a moving world. Fortunately there are a collection of such depth cues, a subset of monocular cues called pictorial cues by some authors (Goldstein, 1989).

The first depth cue to be discussed here is interposition which is the partial blocking of a more distant object by a nearer object. Note how the the building is blocked by the girls. Infact, if you notice the kid behind the girls on your right is partially blocking the building too. But, it is the girls who land up blocking him too. Thus creating an illusion as to what is in the background and what is in the front. It is the interposition, overlap, that causes the sense of depth to arise. Usually the impression of depth caused by interposition alone is not very strong.

Notice the foreground figures of two girls with partially blocked figures of other two taking a piggy ride, which are all that are important for our present purposes. Here relative size and even relative height play little role in giving the depth order of the various figures (all the figures are roughly the same level and same size). Shadowing plays an important role in giving each of the figures their sense of three-dimensionality, but to tell who is in what position relative to another, the principle cue is interposition.

There is a lot of space behind the girls suggesting they are far from the buildings. The water is in the background and the wet girls suggest they had been in the water previously.


•The girls have moved fro near the water to the position they are in now.

Where was the picture made? What do u think was its purpose?

  • The picture seems to be clicked in some Afro-American suburb.
  • It could have been taken to accompany a feature article on the summer heat.

Personal Perspective

  • What do I think of the visual?
  • Omniphasism “All in Balance”
  • Rick Williams philosopher, photographer & educator at the University of Oregon
  • Theory that combines the rational and intuitive aspects of the mind.

Omniphasism was thought of by Rick Williams, a philosopher, photographer, and educator at the University of Oregon develop the theory Omniphasism. It’s a theory that attempts to combine the rational and intuitive aspects of the mind into a balanced whole. William uses 8 steps for analyzing a visual message, using his Omniphasism tech called a “personal Impact Assessment”

What is my first emotional response to the visual? Do I like it? Dislike it? How do I feel about the image?

Its a picture of teenage girls who have just played in
water. It’s pleasant to look at.

Personal Impact Assessment

“Part of the idea of going from primary words to associative words to significant words is to move away from Literal interpretation of the photo to a symbolic understanding of it." ~ Rich Williams

Personal Impact Assessment

8 Steps:

1. Take time with the image
2. List Primary Words
3. List associative words
4. Select the most important associative words
5. Pair primary and associative words
6. Relate each pair to yourself
7. Review your inner symbolism
8. Write a story

Take time with the Image

  • Does the story Stimulate or Alienate?

Its an isolated moment that rests on composition.

  • What is the story or message?

Some girls played in the water to beat the heat.

List Primary Words

  • Visual Cues
  • Objects
  • Feelings

Primary words

  • Group of 4 girls
  • Water
  • Sun
  • Old buildings
  • Light shade clothes

List Associative Words

Observe each primary word and link it to your thought.

One must write down all words that come to ones mind on reading each of the primary words.

Associative words
  • Group of 4 girls : happy, wet, Afro American
  • Water: Hose pipe, Fire hydrant
  • Sun: Summer, heat, daytime
  • Old buildings: poor neighbourhood
  • Happy : cool, relaxed

Select the most important associative words

Among the associative words one word would be closest to its primary word underline or select that word. This is the most important associative word.

Choose one word out of the associative words for each primary

Pair Primary and Associative words

Write the primary and most important associative word together.

  • Group of 4 girls : Afro American
  • Water: Fire hydrant
  • Sun: Summer-heat
  • Old buildings: poor neighbourhood
  • Happy : cool

Relate each pair to Yourself

Make note of the thoughts that come to your mind on viewing each pair of words.

What does each pair suggest?
  • Group of 4 girls : Afro american poor
  • Water: Fire hydrant wet, sultry
  • Sun: Summer-heat scorcher
  • Old buildings: poor neighborhood unaffordability of luxury
  • Happy : cool relief

Review your Inner Symbolism

See if the conclusions drawn from the pairs link to any conflict, event, emotion, value or feeling.

  • List inner conflicts, emotions, values or feelings
The summer heat is hard to bear . Water is natures boon
to mankind

Write a story

Add up all your thoughts and write a summary or a story. What is the story in the image?

A group of Afro-American girls decide to cool of in the
summer heat by playing with some water from a fire hydrant.

Historical Perspective

  • When do you think was the image made?
In the 1980’s or after.
  • Is there a specific style that the image imitates?

The historical perspective helps to understand current trends in terms of their roots in technology and philosophies of the past. Where did the image come from? What was the setup at that time? What is the background of the image? these questions help us to infer meanings.

Technical Perspective

One can evaluate the production techniques. Has the producer used the technology at hand to its best in generating the message? Has it aided in delivering the message as intended effectively.

  • What medium has been used?
  • What techniques were employed?
A street shot clicked without the subject noticing it
been taken
  • How was it produced?
With an SLR camera
  • Is it of good quality?
yes (look at grain size, gama, composition, content, shutter speed etc.)

Ethical Perspective

This is the moral and ethical analysis of the visual. It applies to both the viewer and the producer of the visual.

Categorical Imperative

  • Immanuel Kant, German philosopher from the east principality of KÖnisberg 18th Century
  • Categorical (unconditional / without exception)
  • “Right is Right”
  • Do your duty

The right thing must be done under even the most extreme conditions. Once a rule is established for a proposed action or idea, behavior and actions must be consistently applied and always in accordance with it. One does his/ her duty.

In the ethics of the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, founder of critical philosophy, a moral law that is unconditional or absolute for all agents, the validity or claim of which does not depend on any ulterior motive or end. “Thou shalt not steal,” for example, is categorical as distinct from the hypothetical imperatives associated with desire, such as “Do not steal if you want to be popular.” For Kant there was only one such categorical imperative, which he formulated in various ways. “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” is a purely formal or logical statement and expresses the condition of the rationality of conduct rather than that of its morality, which is expressed in another Kantian formula: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end, and never as only a means.”


  • Jeremy Bentham & John Stuart Mill (British Philosophers)
  • Belief: “The greatest good for the greatest number of people”
  • Analysis of the consequence : Outcome must do good to most people

In ethics, a tradition stemming from the late 18th- and 19th-century English philosophers and economists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill that an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness—not just the happiness of the performer of the action but also that of everyone affected by it. Utilitarianism is an effort to provide an answer to the practical question “What ought a man to do?” Its answer is that he ought to act so as to produce the best consequences possible. Eg: A gruesome image must be published or printed only if it would evoke a positive reaction in maximum of the viewers.


Hedonism is the philosophy that pleasure is of ultimate importance, the most important pursuit. The name derives from the Greek word for "delight".

  • A student of Socrates, Aristippus founded this ethical philosophy on the basis of pleasure.
  • Aristippus believed that people should “act to maximize pleasure” now and not worry about the future.
  • He referred to intellectual pleasure not physical.
  • Pleasures of the mind
  • “I Possess I am not Possessed”
  • Aesthetic pleasure that we get out of a picture

Golden Mean (Finding a compromise b/w the two extreme points of an action or view.

In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.

To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty. Both ancients and moderns realized that "there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth". The poet John Keats, in his Ode on a Grecian Urn, put it this way:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need
to know.

The Greeks believed there to be three concomitants of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, Paideia and politics. They judged life by this mentality.

Golden Rule

  • “Love your neighbor as yourself”
  • Be humane do not harm others by your actions

The Golden Rule which stems from ethic of reciprocity is a fundamental moral value which "refers to the balance in an interactive system such that each party has both rights and duties, and the subordinate norm of complementarity states that one's rights are the other's obligation." In essence, it is an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. Reciprocity is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, though it is not without its critics.

Many assign the imperative commandment of Golden Rule as instruction for a positive only form of reciprocity. A key element of the golden rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her in-group with consideration. The golden rule, with roots in a wide range of world cultures, is well suited to be a standard to which different cultures could appeal in resolving conflicts. Principal philosophers and religious figures have stated it in different ways.

Veil of Ignorance

John Rawls (1971) “Put the shoe on the other foot.

  • All people are equal
  • Eliminating all prejudice and discrimination

The original position is a hypothetical situation developed by American philosopher John Rawls as a thought experiment to replace the imagery of a savage state of nature of prior political philosophers like Thomas Hobbes. In social contract theory, persons in the state of nature agree to the provisions of a contract that defines the basic rights and duties of citizens in a civil society. In Rawls's theory, Justice as Fairness, the original position plays the role that the state of nature does in the classical social contract tradition of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke.

The original position figures prominently in his book, A Theory of Justice, and it is one of the most influential ideas in twentieth-century philosophy. It has influenced a variety of thinkers from a broad spectrum of philosophical orientations. As a thought experiment, the original position is a hypothetical designed to accurately reflect what principles of justice would be manifest in a society premised on free and fair cooperation between citizens, including respect for liberty, and an interest in reciprocity.

Questions to be asked while analysing a visual from Ethical / Moral Perspective... as per Dr Demi Elliot Poynter Jamison, chair, Media Ethics & Press Policy at the University of South Florida at St. Petersberg.

1. Does the taking and displaying of the picture fit the social responsibility of the professional involved?

2. Has any ones rights been violated in taking and displaying the picture?

3. Does the display of the image meet the needs of the viewer?

4. Is the picture aesthetically appealing?

5. Does the picture choice reflect moderation?

6. Does the professional choice reflect empathy for the subjects experience?

7. Could a professional justify the choice if he/she didn’t know which of the parties (subject, shooter or viewer) he/ she would turn out to be?

8. Does the visual Image cause unjustified harm

Cultural Perspective

  • Identify the Symbols used, and
  • Determine their Meaning for the society as a whole.
  • What is the story and the symbolism involved with the elements in the visual message?
  • What do they say about current cultural values?

(It is related to the semiotic process) The story revolves around the Afro-American people in the United States of America. Historically, the country has been dominated by a settler society of religiously and ethnically diverse Whites. The heaviest burdens of racism in the country have fallen upon Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans and some other immigrant groups and their descendants.

Major racially structured institutions include slavery, Indian reservations, segregation, residential schools (for Native Americans), and internment camps. Racial stratification has occurred in employment, housing, education and government. Formal racial discrimination was largely banned in the mid-20th century, and it came to be perceived as socially unacceptable and/or morally repugnant as well, yet racial politics remain a major phenomenon as witnessed during the 44th Presidential Elections.

Racist attitudes, or prejudice, are still held by moderate portions of the U.S population. Members of every American ethnic group have perceived racism in their dealings with other groups.

Critical Perspective

An analysis of a visual to arrive at a 'Rational', 'Objective' and 'Thoughtful' Conclusion.

What is my final opinion about the picture?

How does my current view differ from the previous?


“Analysis is ego-driven. The main thing is that it always reveals the person making the analysis -- not really the piece itself˝ ~ David Lodge

It’s a cyclic process.

You will find below four images. You may undertake a visual analysis, based on what you have learnt so far:

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Post-Production Process Editing… “Invisible Art”

Editing is an art of structuring (at times re-structuring, i.e. re-directing) a narrative for the purpose of seemless flow of a convincing story. Editing is executed by connecting two or more shots together to form a sequence, and the subsequent connecting of sequences to form an entire movie / television program. This process is the only art that is unique to cinema / television, and which separates film & Television making from all other art forms that preceded it (such as photography, theatre, dance, writing, and directing. However there exists close parallels to the editing process in other art forms such as poetry or novel writing. It is often referred to as the "invisible art," since the idea, under most cicumstances, is to have the viewer engaged with the narrative that he or she becomes unaware of the work of the editor.
Since, almost every motion picture, television show, and TV commercial is a single camera shoot (per take), each single shot is separated from the other by time and space. On its most fundamental level, video editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling these shots into a coherent whole. However, the job of an editor isn’t merely to mechanically put pieces of a film together, nor is it to just cut off the film or video slates, nor is it merely to edit dialogue scenes. A film editor works with the layers of images, the story, the music, the rhythm, the pace, shapes the actors' performances, "re-directing" and often re-writing the film or video during the editing process, honing the infinite possibilities of the juxtaposition of small snippets of clips into a creative, coherent, cohesive whole.

Editing, be it film or video, is an art that can be used in diverse ways. It can create sensually provocative montages. It can be a laboratory for experimental genre. It can bring out the emotional truth in an actor's performance. It can create a point of view on otherwise obtuse events. It can guide the telling and pace of a story. It can create the illusion of danger where there is none, surprise when we least expect it, and a vital subconscious emotional connection to the viewer.

Please note, if anybody is under illusion that this is only true for fiction genre and not applicable to documentary and other features including cutting for news format is wrong.

Television and film use certain common conventions often referred to as the 'grammar' of these audiovisual media. This list includes some of the most important conventions for conveying meaning through particular camera and editing techniques (as well as some of the specialised vocabulary of film production). Conventions aren't rules: expert practitioners break them for deliberate effect, which is one of the rare occasions that we become aware of what the convention is.

1.Cut. Sudden change of shot from one viewpoint or location to another. On television cuts occur on average about every 5 or 6 seconds. Cutting may:
•change the scene;
•compress time;
•vary the point of view; or
•build up an image or idea.

There is always a reason for a cut, and you should ask yourself what the reason is. Less abrupt transitions are achieved with the fade, dissolve, and wipe. In a cut, the first frame of a new shot directly follows the last frame of the previous one. Grammatically, a cut is like the space between two words: a division between units of meaning that signals no change at all.

In classic editing, a cut should be nearly invisible because the action on screen moves across the division between shots in an uninterrupted flow. This enhances the illusion that the viewer is watching a continuous process instead of a bunch of discrete images.

Creating this illusion is easy when the shots show different subjects, such as close-ups of two different actors, because the viewer expects the image to change completely from shot to shot. But when two shots cover successive views of the same subject you must spackle the seam with two crucial editing techniques: matching action and changing camera angle.

In matching action you set the edit points so that the incoming shot picks up precisely where the outgoing shot leaves off. There are three ways to do this: continue movement, cut between movements, and start or end off-screen.

Cutting in the middle of an ongoing movement is the hardest method but it delivers the most convincing illusion. In the outgoing shot of Figure 1a, the cup descends part-way to its saucer. Then the incoming shot starts with the cup on-screen and continues on its path toward the table. With precision matching, the two arcs seem like different views of the same continuous action. You can match continuous action with consumer-level editing decks if you're willing to practice with the deck's accuracy.

An easier way is to make the cut during a pause in the action, as shown in Figure 1b. Here, the performer completes the whole set-down in medium shot and the close-up starts with the hand and the cup at rest. With no movement to match, the edit is easier.

Simpler yet is the old off screen ploy (Figure 1c). The incoming shot starts before the cup enters the frame, so the viewer cannot compare its end position with its start position. With this method, you don't have to match action at all.

The method works equally well if you reverse it so that the outgoing cup ends on-screen and the incoming cup starts off-screen. And when you have a really difficult edit, try both at once: finish the outgoing and start the incoming shots with empty screens.

Whichever method you use, matching action does only half the job of concealing the cut. To perfect the illusion you must also shift the camera position. By moving the point of view, you change the subject's background and deprive the viewer of reference points for matching action.

As we've often noted, you can change three aspects of camera setup: vertical angle (from bird's-eye down to worm's-eye), horizontal angle (from front through 3/4 and profile to rear) and image size (from long shot to close-up). Figure 2 shows why it's tough to conceal a cut without changing at least one of these aspects and preferably two.

Figure 2a shows no angle change between the two shots and the obvious jump cut that results. Figure 2b changes one aspect: image size. If you're a slick editor you can make this cut work, but it's easier if you can change a second aspect as well. In Figure 2c the edit changes vertical angle as well as image size for a smoother transition.

Should you change all three aspects of a camera position? Maybe, but not necessarily. It doesn't add to the illusion and it can actually call attention to the edit because the viewpoint change is so great. On the other hand, an extreme angle change can be effective in building suspense precisely because it produces an effect of uneasiness or even disorientation.

Editing cuts

Match Cut (Description): Combining two shots of differing angle and composition so that the action continues from one to the other in the same time and place.

This shows seamless progression of action, focus on detail of action, provide a different view enhancing three- dimensionality, and add energy and increase pacing. The shot above could be followed by a close up of the hands.

Jump Cut: Combining two shots (see both b&w images) above that are similar so that the subject jumps from one part of the screen to another. It attracts attention and speeds up time.

Cutaway: it shows the subject, close up detail or person observing action (see above). Subject is not seen in shots edited before or after cutaway. This is done to cover jump cuts, provide reaction of others to main action, focus attention on subject.

Editing Transitions & Effects

Fade from and to Black: the image gradually appears from a black screen. Fade to black: image gradually disappears to a black screen.the purpose is to begin and end a video, it could be a transition between segments or scenes, or signify major change in time or location.

Dip to Black: A quick fade to black and then back to video. To go to or from a commercial break, quick transition between segments or scenes, or transition between footage and full screen graphics.

Dissolve: A transition between shots where one image is gradually mixed with another until the second image is full screen. To enhance emotions, soften changes between shots, accentuate rhythm of pacing, enhance artistry of action, and smooth jump cuts.

Wipe: A transition between shots that uses movement across the screen. Traditional wipes include changing the image with a move from right or left, up or down, or diagonally. Effects wipes include spins, flips, and animated moves. To show obvious transition between scenes, segments or graphics; add energy and action and increase pacing.

Super: Mixing two images together to show two views of subject at the same time, suggesting that main subject is thinking about the other.

Freeze: A single frame of video that is frozen on the screen to end action, accentuate moment or character, background for graphics, lengthen short shot.

Editing - Graphics & Titles

Lower Third Title: Text appearing in the bottom third of the screen. It identifies the name and title of interview subject, provide caption for image.

Full Screen Graphicit’s a combination of text, background or artwork that fills the screen. For titles in the beginning of a video or a segment, key points or summations, charts and graphs, transition between segments or to or from commercials.

Some Terms often used by Editors

B-roll: It refers to footage that covers an interview or narration audio. It is done to Illustrate what's discussed in audio, add energy and increase pace, cover audio track edits. For example -someone talks, scenes relating to what the person is saying is shown.

Establishing the scene: It’s a wide shot showing setting, to introduce the location for scene, provide sense of 3D space where action occurs, introduce characters. Example -All the shots are wide showing people doing things

Changing the scene/segment: It is a Visual or audio cue that a new scene or segment has begun. It moves the story along, add variety to story, indicate passage of time or change in location. for example an establishment shot (with people talking). Followed by the main person talking.

Visual Sequence: it features a series of shots showing the subject or a process in action. To focus attention on action or process, show details of, show progression of action, engage viewer with subject and to facilitate comprehension. Example -a person applying make-up

Montage Sequence: A series of images, usually set to music, that quickly show various aspects of the story. It shows passage of time, provide a glimpse of actions or events not covered in detail, capture viewer interest at beginning of video, sum up story at end, provide a change of pace, add energy.

Natural Sound: It includes ambient sounds of subjects overheard during recording. To enhance sense of reality, capture spontaneous speech of subject in the natural situation, establish the setting or situation, show transition between scenes or locations, provide background sound to narration.

Reference: All material is assembled from the following sites.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Using Reflected-Light Meters

Once you have set the proper film or camera speed or sensitivity (this is characterised by a numerical value followed alphabets ‘ISO’. To further understand ‘The Photographic Process and Film Sensitivity’ students may visit Perry Sprawls at his website) by on your camera or meter, you are ready to make the exposure-meter reading. With a reflected-light meter (in camera or handheld), point the camera or meter at the subject. The meter will measure the average brightness of the light reflected from the various parts of the scene. With an in-camera meter, a needle or diode display in the viewfinder or an LCD display on top of the camera will tell you when you have achieved the proper combination of lens and shutter-speed settings. If the camera is fully manual, you will have to set both the aperture and shutter speed. Automatic cameras may set both shutter speed and aperture; or they may set just one of the controls, leaving you to set the other.

If you're using a handheld meter, read the information on your meter and set the camera controls accordingly. An overall exposure reading taken from the camera position will give good results for and average scene with an even distribution of light and dark areas. For many subjects, then, exposure-meter operation is mostly mechanical; all you do is point the meter (or camera) at the scene and set the aperture and shutter speed as indicated. But your meter does not know if you need a fast shutter speed to stop action or a small aperture to extend depth of field. You will have to select the appropriate aperture and shutter combination for the effect you want. There will be other situations where either the lighting conditions or the reflective properties of the subject will require you to make additional judgements about the exposure information the meter provides, and you may have to adjust the camera controls accordingly.

A reflected-light meter reading is influenced by both how much light there is in the scene and how reflective the subject is. The meter will indicate less exposure for a subject that reflects little light, even if the two subject are in the same scene and in the same light. Because reflected-light meters are designed to make all subjects appear average in brightness, the brightness equivalent to medium gray, they suggest camera settings that will overexpose (make too light) very dark subjects and underexpose (make too dark) very light subjects.

Although reflected-light meters are influenced more by the largest areas of the scene, the results will be acceptable even when the main subject fills the picture but it's still of average reflectance (neither very light nor very dark). However, what happens if a relatively small subject is set against a large dark or light background? The meter will indicate a setting accurate for the large area, not for the smaller, but important, main subject. Therefore, when the area from which you take a reflected-light reading is very light or very dark, and you want to expose it properly, you should modify the meter's exposure recommendation as follows:
• For light subjects, increase exposure by 1/2 to 1 stop from the meter reading.
• For dark subjects, decrease exposure by 1/2 to 1 stop from the meter reading.

Please remember that since reflected metering reads the intensity of light reflecting off of the subject, they are easily fooled by variances in tonality, colour, contrast, background brightness, surface textures and shape. What you see is often not at all what you get. Reflected meters do a good job of reading the amount of light bouncing off of a subject the trouble is they don't take into account any other factors in the scene. They are merciless in recording all things as a medium tone. Reflected measurements of any single tone area, for instance, will result in a neutral grey rendition of that object. Subjects that appears lighter than grey will reflect excess light and cause them to record darker than they appear. Subjects that are darker than grey will reflect less light and result in an exposure that renders it lighter.

Selective Meter Readings

To determine the correct exposure for higher contrast scenes with large areas that are much darker or much lighter than the principle subject, take a selective meter reading of only the subject itself. How do you do this? Move the meter or camera close to the subject. Exclude unimportant dark or light areas that will give misleading readings. In making close-up readings, also be careful not to measure your own shadow or the meter's shadow.

Selective meter readings are useful for dark subjects against a bright background like snow or light sand, or for subjects in shade against a bright sunlit background. There is also the reverse of this: The subject is in bright sun and the background is in deep shade. In all these situations, your camera has no way of knowing which part of the scene is the most important and requires the most accurate exposure, so you must move in close so the meter will read only the key subject area. For example, if you want to photograph a skier posed on a snowy slope on a bright, sunny day, taking an average reading of the overall scene will result in underexposure. The very bright snow will overly influence the meter and the reading will be too high. The solution is to take a close-up reading from the skier's face (or a piece of medium-toned clothing) and then step back the desired distance to shoot the picture. Some cameras with built-in meters have an exposure-hold button or switch to lock the exposure setting when you do this. This technique is useful anytime the surroundings are much brighter or darker than your subjects.

Landscapes and other scenes with large areas of open sky can also fool the meter (See picture on the left, originally posted to Flickr as Rays of sunlight by Spiralz). The sky is usually much brighter than other parts of the scene, so an unadjusted meter reading will indicate too little exposure for the darker parts of the picture. One way to adjust for this bias without having to move in close is to tilt your lens or meter down to exclude the sky while taking your meter reading. The sky will probably end up slightly overexposed, but the alternative would be to find a different shooting position excluding most or all of the sky. There are also graduated neutral density floaters that work well in such situations. A neutral density filter absorbs all colours of visible light evenly, and you can position a graduated filter so that the darker portion is at the top of the image where it will darken the sky without affecting the ground below. Incidentally, some built-in meters are bottom-weighted to automatically compensate for situations like this, so check your manual.

Bright backlighting with the subject in silhouette can also present a challenge. With the light shining directly into the lens or meter, aiming the meter into the light can cause too high a reading. If you don't want to underexpose the subject, take a close-up reading, being especially careful to shade the lens or meter so that no extraneous light influences the reading.

Substitute Readings

What if you can't walk up to your subject to take a meter reading? For instance, suppose that you're trying to photograph a deer in sunlight at the edge of a wood. If the background is dark, a meter reading of the overall scene will give you an incorrect exposure for the deer. Obviously, if you try to take a close-up reading of the deer, you're going to lose your subject before you ever get the picture. One answer is to make a substitute reading off the palm of your hand, providing that your hand is illuminated by the same light as your subject, then use a lens opening 1 stop larger than the meter indicates. For example, if the reading off your hand is f/16, open up one stop to f/11 to get the correct exposure. The exposure increase is necessary because the meter overreacts to the brightness of your palm which is about twice as bright as an average subject. When you take the reading, be sure that the lighting on your palm is the same as on the subject. Don't shade your palm.

Another subject from which you can take more accurate and more consistent meter readings is a KODAK Grey Card, sold by photo dealers. These sturdy cards are manufactured specifically for photographic use. They are neutral grey on one side and white on the other. The grey side reflects 18% of the light falling on it (similar to that of an average scene), and the white side reflects 90%. You can use a gray card for both black-and-white and colour balance. Complete instructions are included in the package with the cards.

Handling High Contrast

How do you determine the correct exposure for a high-contrast scene, one that has both large light and dark areas? If the highlights of shadow areas are more important, take a close-up reading of the important area to set the exposure. With colour slide film, keep in mind that you will get more acceptable results if you bias the exposure for the highlights, losing the detail in the shadows. In a slide, the lack of detail in the shadows is not as distracting as overexposed highlights that project as washed-out colour and bright spots on the screen. If you are working with black-and-white film, you can adjust the development for better reproduction of the scene contrast, particularly in highlights.

But what if the very light and very dark areas are the same size and they are equally important to the scene? One solution is to take selective meter readings from each of the areas and use a f-number that is midway between the two indicated readings. For instance, if your meter indicates an exposure of 1/125 second at f/22 for brightest area and 1/125 second at f/2.8 for the darkest area--a range of six stops--set your camera 1/125 second f/8. This is a compromise solution, but sometimes it is your only choice short of coming back another day or changing your viewpoint, and the composition of the picture, to eliminate the contrast problem.

Using Spot Meters

Perhaps the best solution when you need a selective meter reading is offered by the spot meter. Handheld averaging meters generally cover about 30º, while handheld spot meters typically read a 1º angle The angle of spot meters built into the camera are usually wider, about 3 to 12º. The biggest advantage of a spot meter is that is allows you to measure the brightness of small areas in a scene form the camera position without walking in to make a close-up reading. Since a spot meter measures only the specific area you point it at, the reading is not influenced by large light or dark surroundings. This makes a spot meter especially useful when the principal subject is a relatively small part of the overall scene and the background is either much lighter or darker than the subject. Spot meters are also helpful for determining the scene brightness range. See picure on the left by Joseph Dickerson (the image has all rights reseved: Photos © 2004, Joseph A. Dickerson)

A spot meter can take more time to use since it usually requires more than one reading of the scene. This is particularly true when the scene includes many different bright or dark areas. To determine the best exposure in such a situation, use the same technique described previously for high-contrast subjects: Select the exposure halfway between the reading for the lightest important area in the scene and that for the darkest important area in the scene. Bear in mind, though, all films have inherent limits on the range of contrast they can accurately record. Remember too, you can sometimes create more dramatic pictures by intentionally exposing for one small area, such as a bright spot of sunlight on a mountain peak, and letting the dark areas fall into black shadow without detail. Spot meters are ideal for such creative applications. See picture on the left for creative control of light and careful planning of exposure after taking multiple spot meter readings by Dave Johnson. Also, note the subject and its environment... use of a spot meter usually is convenient in such situations.

Using Incident-Light Meters

a. Set ISO/ASA of film being used.
b. Hold light meter in front of scene with the sphere pointed at the camera.
c. Depress centre button.
d. Needle will move to a reading.
e. The reading is measured on the foot-candle scale.

Depending on the lighting conditions, there are two settings that can be utilized - the Red Arrow setting (when the High Slide is inserted in the slot below the sphere) is used outdoors in bright light and the Black Arrow setting (High Slide is removed) is used in lower light circumstances.

f. Move dial to Black Arrow setting when High Slide is not used so the number lines up with the corresponding number on scale.


g. Move dial to Red Arrow setting when High Slide is used so the number lines up with the corresponding number on scale.
h. Shutter speed scale
i. Aperture scale

Please note that above image and text has been taken from http://paulturounetforum.com/2007/09/24/nature-of-light-and-artificial-light/. I have tried not to tamper with this text nor the image. In fact you may want to visit the above website.

Moving on, to use an incident-light meter, hold it at or near the subject and aim the meter's light-sensitive cell back toward the camera. The meter reads the amount of light illuminating the subject, not light reflected from the subject, so the meter ignores the subject and background characteristics. As with a reflected reading, an incident reading provides exposure information for rendering average subjects correctly, making incident readings most accurate when the subject is not extremely bright or dark.

When taking an incident-light reading, be sure you measure the light illuminating the side of the subject you want to photograph, and be careful that your shadow isn't falling on the meter. If the meter isn't actually at the subject, you can get a workable reading by holding the meter in the same kind of light the subject is in. Because the meter is aimed toward the camera and away from the background light, an incident reading is helpful with backlit subjects. This is also the case when the main subject is small and surrounded by a dominant background that is either much lighter or darker.

The exposure determined by an incident-light meter should be the same as reading a gray card with a reflected-light meter. Fortunately, many scenes have average reflectance with an even mix of light and dark areas, so the exposure indicated is good for many picture-taking situations. However, if the main subject is very light or very dark, and you want to record detail in this area, you must modify the meter's exposure recommendations as follows:
• For light subjects, decrease exposure by 1/2 to 1 stop from the meter reading.
• For dark subjects, increase exposure by 1/2 to 1 stop from the meter reading.

You will notice that these adjustments are just the opposite from those required for a reflected-light meter. An incident meter does not work well when photographing light sources because it cannot meter light directly. In such situations you will be better off using a reflected-light meter or an exposure table.

If the scene is unevenly illuminated and you want the best overall exposure, make incident-light readings in the brightest and darkest areas that are important to your picture. Aim the meter in the direction of the camera position for each reading. Set the exposure by splitting the difference between the two extremes.

Actual measuring

Foot Candle meters are the most commonly used meter for video. These meters display the amount of light striking them on a scale calibrated in foot candles, from 0 to 500 and are not dependent on any other factors.

In order to get an accurate reading the meter needs to be placed immediately in front of the subject facing the light source to be measured. The easiest way to take the key, fill, and back light measurements is to do them one at a time, with the other two lights turned off. Start with just the key light on, position the meter in front of the area of the subject struck by the key light. Aim the meter at the key light and note the number of foot candles. For example, if it reads 100 foot candles. Then next, turn on just the fill light and take another reading facing the fill light. If our intended lighting ratio is 2:1, then the fill light should read about 50 foot candles.

Now, turn on just the back light and take its reading. The back light should be somewhere between 50 and 150 foot candles, depending on the effect desired. The final step is to re-measure the key, fill, and back light positions with all the lights on. This is important since where the illumination from the lights overlaps the intensity increases. Adjust the intensity of the lights as needed to maintain the desired lighting ratio.