Reading Images A different way

In the beginning of this reading, we are given an example of composition in an image and what composition means. Composition as a whole is when the representational and interactive elements are made to relate to each other, the way they are integrated into a meaningful whole. The example we are given is Minus and Karin and how they are placed because the placement of the elements endows them with specific information values relative to each other. Also Karin is the most Salient because she the most eye-catching element in the composition because she forms the largest, simplest elements in the picture, but she is the sharper focus too. Now there are three interrelated systems in composition. They are Information value, Salience, and Framing.  First information value is the placement of elements that endows them with specific informational values attached to the various “zones” of the image left or right, top or bottom, centre and margin. Then there is Salience which is the elements are made to attract the viewer’s attention to different degrees, as realized by such factors as placement in the foreground or background, relative size, contrast in tonal value, differences in sharpness. Last is framing and that is the presence or absence of framing devices disconnects or connects elements of the image, signifying that they belong or do not belong together in some sense. These three elements of composition don’t just apply to pictures but they also apply to composite visuals, which combine text and images.

Placing things on the left or the right is a key factor. When stuff is placed on the left side is generally known as the GIVEN, and the stuff placed on the right is known as the NEW. “For something to be Given means that it is presented as something the viewer already knows as a familiar and agreed upon point of departure for the message. For something to be New means that it is presented as something which is not yet known, or perhaps not yet agreed upon by the viewer, hence something to which the viewer must pay special attention.” The concepts of Given and New are also applied to diagrams like in Shannon and Weavers communication model, and it also can be in film and television. As a result for the Given and the New is that a New can always become a given because it will become the Given for the next New.


There is also the information value of Top and Bottom. The top is represented as the IDEAL which means that it is presented as the idealized or generalized essence of the information, hence also as its ostensibly most salient part. The REAL is then opposed to this in that it presents more specific information. Just like the Given and New, the Ideal and Real can be used in composition not just in images but also composite text such as layouts.

There are many cultures out there that use these concepts of given, new, top, and bottom differently. Rembrandt used lighting as a way to express the meanings. The Given for Rembrandt was “Light” and the New was “Darkness”. There were many other ways people used these concepts throughout time.

For Centre and Margin are another key way of expressing compositions in images. If an element is central it is known as Centre which means that it is presented as the nucleus of the information to which all the other elements are in some sense subservient. Margins are so similar to each other that there is not a division between them.


Salience is so important to the composition because it can create a hierarchy of importance among the elements, selecting some as more important, more worthy of attention than others. With Rhythm being a huge factor for salience it is also big for framing too. For framing it is present as a separate unit of information. It stress group identity and the presence of individuality and differentiation.


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