Here's a white picture. Where do your eyes go when you view it?
Presumably everywhere, looking for information, and regularly resting towards the center, right?
How about now?
There's probably still a bit of roaming, but a lot more stability on one of the black dots, presumably the top one. Maybe a little flicking between the two? Correct?
Composition is the predetermined harnessing of visual attention. By a simple change of frame format and the addition of black dot to a white image, it is possible to radically alter the way the viewer 'reads' the image and change the feeling (search vs stability) quite significantly. This is what this series of posts is about.
What is visual energy?
Visual energy doesn't exist in physics. It is a construct used to represent how much a picture element appears to radiate impact and draw attention to itself. If you're attuned to Eastern philosophies and religions, the ideas of emotional energy or mental energy won't surprise you. Just think of visual energy as a similar non-physical flow that attracts your gaze and transmits something back.
In the case of a black dot, the gaze is attracted but the dot gives very little back. But a face, a religious icon, a snow-capped peak, a cute kitten, ..., on top of drawing you to them in the picture, will return an emotion, a feeling, an item of information or a triggered thought.
To the rational mind, this term, visual energy, might seem far fetched and out of place in a serious 2019 essay. But, if you think of our reactions faced with powerful images, it makes a lot of intuitive sense.
We react more strongly to some things and, in the rest of this course I'll write that they have more visual energy. Scientific rectitude be damned 😉 Those things that command particular attention are faces, eyes in particular, gazes, bright areas, high-contrast areas, lines, ... How we organize them visually inside a frame creates the mood and story we want to convey.
But it starts ... with the frame.