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Many years ago, when I made up my mind to get serious about photography, I read a book called How to Photograph Landscapes by Joseph K. Lange.  The book was designed to be a soup to nuts explication on landscape photography.  One piece of advice in the work that has stuck with me all these years is the importance of what Lange called a “center of interest” to an effective landscape photograph.  (I have always suspected that the concept could be extended to any genre of photography.)

What is a center of interest?  It’s something that will serve as the primary compositional focus for the viewer in a given image.  It’s the thing that will grab the viewer’s attention right off the bat.

At first, I tended to think of the center of interest as something quite tangible—a lighthouse, a mountain peak, a waterfall and so forth—and often times it’s just that.  But sometimes, the center of interest is something less tangible and more conceptual in nature.  It might be a pattern, as we discussed last time around.  Or it might be a color or a group of colors.  It might be a mood or an ambiance.  That’s covering a lot of ground, of course, which makes this a bit of a tricky concept for many budding photographers to fully grasp.  The notion of a thing as a center of interest is easy to follow.  But the intangible center of interest usually takes a bit more time to both conceive of and to implement in the process of image-making in the field.

Regardless, the point is, it the center of interest be something.  The effective identification of a center of interest is an indication of an image with a purpose and that’s something that most viewers can relate to and want to view again and again and again.  And that’s one definition of an effective photograph.

Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday.  To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog:  Lightscapes Nature Photography.

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