Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Attention Management

Stage magicians and sleight-of-hand artists have something in common with photographers: both deal in perception and use visual clues to lead the audience to certain ends. In the case of the magician, that end might be a sense of wonder created by illusion. In the case of the photographer, it might be an emotion or thought created by the content of an image and the way that image was composed. Either way, both depend on directing the eye of the audience, and the best of them do it without the audience feeling led, manipulated, or aware of the device.

To make full use of this, we first need to understand what people look at. Returning to the magician for a moment, he understands that people see large movements before small movements. So a larger movement on stage might direct attention away from the smaller movement of secreting an object or pulling a hidden object from its hiding place. It’s often called “misdirection,” but calling it so is a misnomer that implies something has gone wrong. “Redirection” and perhaps “attention management” would be better terms. The magician studies human behavior and—knowing that we are generally predisposed to look at big movements before small ones, or to relax our attention when we laugh—uses that to his advantage. So it is with photographers.

So what do we look at? What is the eye drawn to, and how can that be used to more intentionally direct the eye through the frame? Generally, we notice areas of light before areas of dark, and large elements before smaller one. We look to warm colors before the cooler ones. Here’s a short list of elements that draw our eye:

  • Large elements before small elements
  • Light elements before dark elements
  • Warm colors before cool colors
  • Focused elements before blurred elements
  • Elements in perspective before flat elements
  • Isolated elements before cluttered elements
  • High contrast before low contrast
  • Oblique lines before straight lines
  • Recognizable elements before ambiguous elements
  • Human/alive elements before inanimate elements

Once we become aware of how the viewer’s attention will behave, it’s much easier to gently push and pull the eye around the frame—to say, without a word, “Look here,” or, “This is less important.” Important elements might be lighter, larger, warmer, or sharper than less important elements. Elements that have no relevance at all should probably be cropped right out as you shoot, but hierarchies of importance exist in a visual story, and less important elements are still necessary. Think of it in terms of primary elements and secondary elements.

The photograph of the running monk (primary element) has the Thiksey Monastery as its background (secondary element); the visual clues provided by the architecture and color of the monastery building are important so you don’t want to crop them out, but the man is more important. The fact that the young man is wearing a more saturated, warmer color than his surroundings immediately helps set him apart from the cooler tones of the stone, and draws the eye naturally toward the intended center of interest first. Similarly, the panning renders the background less sharp than the monk, and the monk in turn is less sharp than the kettle, giving us different levels of visual mass and a natural progression for the eye to follow. The eye moves from monk to kettle to background, but always returns to the monk because he holds greater visual interest for us. The photograph is about the man and his kettle—so he needs to be clearly identifiable as the primary element—but part of telling a story about this particular man is his context.


Canon 5D, 33mm, 1/30 @ f/22, ISO 100

Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh, India.

Some of this might be refined in post-production as well, with the digital equivalent of dodging and burning—making areas of primary importance lighter and areas of secondary importance darker. Subtly vignetting an image by darkening the corners can lead the viewer’s eye to the center and keep it from drifting into the corners. Slightly desaturating or blurring secondary elements can have a similar effect, reducing their visual mass and lessening their pull on the eye.

This is not the only means by which we can lead the eye. There are others—pointing, for example. For the magician, the simple nonverbal gesture of pointing, or even looking at something, makes the audience look there, too. In the photograph, this might be the eye line of someone in the image, creating an implied line in the direction of their gaze that leads your viewer to look that way, too. It might be leading lines in the images that converge in one direction, also pulling the eye there. Strong diagonal lines in a frame already pull the eye and, with a little foresight while shooting, can be used to pull the eye in the direction you want it to go. Changing your shooting position only a little might result in straight lines becoming oblique, making your image more dynamic and, again, providing subtle but important attention management tools for you to more intentionally guide the eye of your viewers.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020