When you are doing it right, you are probably wrong!

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by john_a|5, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. I just came across this article which relates another one of those interesting factoids--hey, it could become the "Rule of Lefts"-- that pop up from time to time. We all, I assume, have heard about faces being asymmetrical, but this study reveals something interesting, that it is the left side that people find more appealing.
  2. stp


    I'd sure like to see this study replicated in different cultures in order to get insight into the degree to which this preference is culturally versus biologically based.
  3. That could be interesting. But one thing I always heard, yet not attributed to one side of the other as a constant, was that one side of our faces was more pleasant and one more stern or evil or something on that order. That if you take each side of your face and mirror it that one side is more jovial and the other a bit more sinister.
  4. It's not just faces either. I have an old (1940s) book on photography and on facing pages they have printed an image the correct way and reversed. It's a fairly simple scene of a dirt track with an old house, a fence, a few trees, etc.
    One image seems to convey a warm, welcoming feeling whilst the other feels cold and threatening.
  5. Interesting theory. I wouldn't question it but I doubt it would ever effect my photo making. So much gestalt goes into what side of the face I might choose for a profile that I can't imagine any innate sense of which side of the face is more appealing would have much sway. Then again, I'm not usually as interested in appeal as I am expression. And, of course, I would never say never.
  6. Yea Fred, I doubt I would change what I do either, but it would be interesting to review your work--the rhetorical you--and see if there is any correlation to a side that we shoot more often than others. Of course, I don't think either of us shoot with the idea of making someone look good, but as you say, for the effect of the image. It could be a handy little tip for retail portrait shooters though, at least something to be aware of.
    Oddly, I do remember now that I used to always have people I shot stand facing right and then left before I set up the lighting just to see which side was more "interesting", not necessarily more pleasant.
  7. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that you look into a face(from left to right) with left profile while you sweep past the face with right profile pictures? Just like we like moving objects better when they move from left to right in our photos because that's they way we read, possibly?. Of course this may be different on other cultures where they read right to left like Hebrew and Chinese. I agree with Stephen that it would be interesting to see this experiment in different cultures and countries.
  8. There are all sorts of cultural things in play here, too. The people reading this thread are mostly used to reading from left to right. We tend to associate the right with future, the left with past. A face looking from camera left to camera right connotes looking ahead, vs. looking back, or looking out vs. looking in. Clues like that can communicate subtle things that color our sense of whether a subject is presenting optimism, regret, introspection, a more analytical mind, etc.

    When the circumstances of the photo suggest a narrative, the side of the face that's showing doesn't have to more or less attractive in "objective" terms for it to none the less be perceived that way.

    I also wonder about the well-established left-brain/right-brain stuff. When we're looking closely at another person (face to face), and study their left vs. right eyes, many of us actually switch eye dominance, favoring the input from our right eye while looking at their left, and from our left eye while looking at our right. There are measurable differences in how each hemisphere handles input, even at the optic processing level, weighted considerably by which eye is otherwise normally dominant.

    My right eye is significantly dominant over my left. I know that I perceive things that I catch with my left eye differently than I do things that I first catch with my right. And I'm absolutely certain that my own facial expressions are quite lopsided (a grimace or a smile, from me, always start on the left side of my face first - I can feel it happening, if I think about it). Don't know if that's learned or hard-wired, but it's true for me. If that makes - as mentioned in the study - my left cheek and eye muscles more subtle and expressive, it may indeed follow that a photograph of that side of my homely mug is somehow more pleasing.

    Lots to consider, here. But nothing that strikes me as likely to change how I'd interact with a subject I'm shooting.

    EDIT: Alan posted while I was muttering about things. We're on a similar page, there.
  9. I'm sort of curious, as I read Alan's comments, about this reading pictures from left to right thing. In a book I was skimming at the bookstore the author said "you never" compose an image right to left--another one of those new "RULES" I guess.
    Anyway, I have never bought that idea or maybe I am ambidextrous when it comes to looking at things. I just don't think the world is arranged differently depending on if one reads left to right, front to back, top to bottom or right to left--and we learned to see, and do it all the time, before we learned to read. Generally, I think we look straight at the things we are looking at and then that thing's surroundings/setting moves our eye naturally to gather context unless we get pulled by something else in another spot. Even with photographs, I think we first engage it in its entirety and then we react to its visual dynamics. Based on the piece, certain symbolism might be inferred, as Matt described, but I don't think those things are a given if something is facing right or left, it depends on the context.
    I do know that we often will design things with that idea in mind. For instance, I know Graphic Designers will often consider where they place an image in a design based on its orientation--do they want to hold the viewer's eye on the page or spread or have it flow -- or even push it --to the next one. I do think orientation can have a psychological affect on one when looking at a book or catalog or ad and could also be used in a free standing piece to effect--just as one can use the other visual principles.
  10. When I shoot portraits I always light from the right (i.e. my right as I look at the subject) - lighting from the left looks wrong to me. That said, I always put my camera (35mm) to my left eye. I always used to think that this was because my left eye was the sharper of the two but now, even though my left eye is now less sharp, I still use it because I don't seem to be able to compose the picture using my right eye. Anyone else find this?
  11. People are right-eyed and left-eyed just like being right handed or left handed. You can be the same or opposite between hand and eye.
    You're probably left-eyed so that's why you prefer to user your left eye through the viewfinder.
    A simple test is as follows. Hold your arm at arms length. Make a circle with your fore finger and thumb. With both eyes open, aim the circle at a small, far object. Close your right eye. If the object moves out of the circle, you're right eyed. If the object stay in the circle, your left eyed.
  12. If everything I have read is right, then your left eye is controlled by the right side of the brain. There could be some correlation there--I think my wife also shoots from the left eye but I don't.
    There is an interesting exercise about this right left brain thing that I was given in an creativity class. You sit down in a quiet place--where you can be so for 20 minutes at least--with a paper and pen. You write out questions, easy at first--like "what is my name"--but you answer them with your left hand. Progressively, you asked more pointed questions about your creativity and most find the answers, which you should just let flow out, to be very insightful and often unexpected.
  13. More years ago than I would care to discuss, when as a Brooks student, we had an assignment in which we photographed a fellow student "full face", printed it normally and reversed, split the prints and created 1- full face, 2- two left faces, and 3-two right faces. Those were 3 totally different faces, mostly un-recognizable.
  14. I think Matt is on the right track - it would be interesting to chart the responses in the study by handedness of the respondents.
    my first thought was that more of us are right-handed and that might correspond to liking the left side better.

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