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How Gestalt can help you improve your photographs

Would you like to create images that catch the eye, that make an impact? Well, you don't need a high-end camera or professional equipment. What you need is to know how to create images that generate that interest.

To achieve this you will have to learn how images work, the elements that make some images catch our attention and others not. And for that, something you need to know is that images, all of them, are expressed using a visual language. We all receive a lot of training about other languages, such as spoken or written, but very little, if anything, about the visual language you use in your photographs. Learning how that language works, its peculiarities, is the key to create images that transmit interesting things to the viewer, that engage and catch him/her visually.

Undoubtedly, knowing the impact of individual visual elements, such as point, line, etc., along with the study of their relationship, composition, is something very important to achieve, in this article I want to talk to you about another very important aspect, about how we perceive images, about visual perception.

How do we "read" images, from left to right and from top to bottom like texts in our language?

If we manage to sneak into the mind of the viewer and see how he/she interprets the images, maybe we will discover some "patterns or elements" that can help us to create our images, but how do we do this?

Fortunately, Gestalt psychology has been studying this important aspect for some time now, and shed some light on the subject.

Are you up for discovering how Gestalt psychology can help you improve your pictures? Let's go!

Visual perception and Gestalt

Gestalt psychology is a current of psychology that emerged in Germany in the early twentieth century, which began to study the visual perception of people. Visual perception is the ability to interpret external visual stimuli. It involves not only our eye, but also our brain. The brain is in charge of transforming the external light information captured by the eye and recreating that reality.

Visual perception involves aspects such as our previous visual experience (our visual culture), our individuality and even our emotional state.

This is how it works:

The real world is not necessarily as we perceive it. The brain reconstructs the image influenced by our previous experiences and our personality.

Gestalt psychology and its laws of perception

In spite of the individual differences I have mentioned, fortunately there are a series of patterns in our perception, common to most of us, that describe how our brain organizes the data it receives.

Through various studies, Gestalt psychology managed to discover a part of these patterns, developing a series of "laws or principles of perception". Through these laws or principles you can know how our eye and our brain perceive images, a very interesting information that you should use to improve your photographs.

However, the term "law" or "principle" must be interpreted in a general way, since I insist on the particularities of each person, their visual culture, their state of mind, the society they live in, etc.

Basic principles of Gestalt

The basic principle on which the rest of the principles elaborated by the Gestalt school are based, states that:

We perceive the image as a whole and do not construct it from its different parts. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

These laws describe our tendency to perceive the relationships between different elements and explain how it influences the order and meaning of the image. Let's get to know the principles of Gestalt psychology and how you can take advantage of them.

Principle of proximity

This principle tells us that when two or more elements are together, the brain is more likely to perceive them as related and belonging to each other much better than if they are separated, so our perception tends to associate the elements that are close and consider them as a group, as something united. For example, in the drawing we show there are 72 circles, but we do not perceive all 72 equally, but separate them into two groups, and we see a group of 36 circles on the left and three groups of 12 on the right:

Principle of similarity