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Working with Photographs

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Photographs almost always add interest to a design and emphasis to a message. Extra-large or extra-small photos, dramatic cropping, interesting filters, or special digital effects can transform a ho-hum layout into a creative visual solution.

We’ll present some basic guidelines for planning your photographs, but don’t be shy about deviating from those guidelines and stretching the boundaries of what we used to call “Journalism 101” photography: totally safe, conservative images, properly lighted and cropped. Now we refer to this style as the “Pleasantville” look, where everything is completely predictable, perfect, and ideal, which is often completely boring.

A photograph can actually look terrible by Pleasantville standards and be a great image for your design. If you doubt it, look at many of the photos in high-tech, high-fashion, or youth-culture publications. Catchy, smart, sassy, provocative, disturbing—anything but boring.

Watch your Composition

The composition of a photograph (or a layout) refers to how the elements of the image are arranged and manipulated to direct your attention through the image or design. This is done with the visual suggestion of the direction of lines and form, the emphasis created by lighting, color, contrast, and size.

A well-designed photo has been planned with an awareness of composition and with a conscious attempt to control a viewer’s focus and attention, leading the eyes from one point to another in a particular order.

An effective composition can be subtle and unobtrusive, or it can be a flashing, neon sledgehammer, depending on the style and tone you want to convey in the message.

For some great tips and techniques on taking your own photos, go to the Kodak web site ( and find the section on “Taking Great Pictures.” It’s a wonderful resource.

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