Dead Eye on Dead Center


Reuben the Rabbit shows you how to make your pictures stronger by placing the subject somewhere other than square in the middle of the shot.

Credits: emperornorton

I had an especially cruel instructor once — a gearhead and a protégée of Ansel Adams — who nevertheless taught me a excellent principle. She conditioned her students to mock anyone who put the subject of the photo in the photo by shouting “Dead Center!”. I think I had pretty much figured that out for myself before — my rabbit photos were all taken before I took her class.

Now when you are speaking of square format, there’s not much elsewhere to place the subject — but it can be done — but 35mm offers a dramatic tension that most people overlook. You can take in a whole scene and build some interesting bokeh or other interaction with the scenery.

The trouble with the center, as I see it, is that it treats your subject as a bullseye. It rapidly becomes an affectation. All your pictures of people, animals, etc. begin looking pretty much alike. I’ve seen people place people in the middle of Sprocket Rocket and Horizon shots. The composition looks decidedly odd.

There are three solutions:

1.) If you have to put your subject in the middle, fill the frame with it:

Credits: emperornorton

2.) Offset your subject slightly from the center:

Credits: emperornorton

3.) Best of all, slide your subject over to one side or the other or put it in a corner. First focus on the subject, then move your field of view:

Credits: emperornorton

Like all rules, these are made to be broken. But I guarantee that you will see a rise in the dramatic tension that you bring to your pictures if you experiment around them.

written by emperornorton on 2011-11-21 in #gear #tipster #subject #modeling #tutorial #art #art-photography #models #shooting #composition


  1. melissonline
    melissonline ·

    Nice article, especially 'cause there is a bunny in it. <3

  2. ginny
    ginny ·

    Cutest photos ever!

  3. natalieerachel
    natalieerachel ·

    Bunny! So cute!!

  4. stouf
    stouf ·

    Great shots and great model !

  5. simonh82
    simonh82 ·

    Nice photos. Was the bunny stuffed or just very docile?

  6. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @simonh82 Heh. He was quite alive when I took these photos.

  7. nobodyowens
    nobodyowens ·

    The shot of the ears is by far my favourite.

  8. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @nobodyowens Mine, too!

  9. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    You are sooo right about that. I often tend to forget this and everytime I see the end-result with the dead centre I go: Nooooo, not again. I think I will remember some day, though :)

  10. laurasulilly
    laurasulilly ·

    Oh, and one more thing, just to see if I got it right: if I take a portrait shot which fills the whole frame it's ok to put the subject in the centre, right? Like you did with your cute bunny under point 1.

  11. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @laurasuilily I find getting close negates the rule. What you want to avoid is the bulls-eye effect (nicely illustrated by the first photo in this article). Getting close generally creates a sense of intimacy that is lost when you get too far away.

    And mark my words here: sometimes it is OK to put the subject dead center. Vanishing point pictures (where you are looking down a road or a bridge) often employ dead center to dramatic effect. But we get in trouble when we photograph people, animals, or flowers using this viewpoint.

  12. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    The rule of thirds: It's there to be broken.

  13. odax
    odax ·

    Love the photos!

  14. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    Especial thanks to Reuben :) Could you give him some extra carrots for us please!

  15. pzjo
    pzjo ·

    well written, great article

  16. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    I'd love to see you winning the new "Zone System Rumble" for great textures in black and white pictures :)

  17. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @ihave2pillows It's a thought.

More Interesting Articles

  • How To Bring Your Images To Life

    written by andie_sollmer on 2014-07-08 in #gear #tipster

    Learn how to make a minimovie out of your favorite picture! It works best with Multi-lensed cameras like the Oktomat or Pop9, where you have many images on one single print.

  • Shoot Dreamy Photos with a Teardrop Backdrop with the New Petzval Lens

    written by shhquiet on 2014-10-27 in #news
    Shoot Dreamy Photos with a Teardrop Backdrop with the New Petzval Lens

    The premium New Petzval Lens allows you to set your subject against a soft, beautiful background of bokeh. But how about making the bokeh even more interesting by using shapes? Simply use the special aperture plates exclusively made for the Petzval and have fun!

  • Perfect Panoramas Captured with the Sprocket Rocket

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-22 in #gear #news
    Perfect Panoramas Captured with the Sprocket Rocket

    Dive into this collection of eye-catching photographs shot with the good ol' Sprocket Rocket. Oh, and find out how you can earn piggies and have your photos be featured on the Online Shop!

  • Shop News

    the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

     the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

    Let your loved one pick the gift of their dreams. Lomography Online Shop Gift Certificates are the perfect present for every analogue devotee on your gift list

  • Lomo’Instant Sanremo Update – Pre-Orders Now Open For Next Shipment Batch

    written by tomas_bates on 2014-12-03 in #news
    Lomo’Instant Sanremo Update – Pre-Orders Now Open For Next Shipment Batch

    Have you been eying up the beautiful Lomo’Instant Sanremo Edition? Well, now’s the time to place your order! We are starting to ship the current batch of pre-orders right now (the delivery date will depend on your location) and are now taking pre-orders for the next batch which we estimate will be ready to ship by December 12th. This next batch of pre-order cameras will be the last stock we have for delivery before the upcoming holidays and will be delivered on a first come, first served basis; so place your pre-order now to secure your place in the queue and avoid disappointment!

  • I am a Mad Analogue Scientist: New Experiments with 35mm Films and Chemicals

    written by blackfairy on 2014-08-07 in #gear #tipster
    I am a Mad Analogue Scientist: New Experiments with 35mm Films and Chemicals

    Unfortunately, it happens sometimes that your resulting pictures are not what you expected - the image doesn't look that good, the colors are bland, and the subject is banal. Indeed, it couldn't be picture of the year! Herein I propose a second chance for your pictures by modifying your 35mm negatives. Just pick up some ideas from here, experiment, and scan your negatives with the Lomography Smartphone Scanner. Anything is possible: burning, scratching, putting on hydrochloric acid, balsamic vinegar, nail polish, bleach, or raspberry juice... use your imagination and write down your new film soup recipe! You can find a sample of the effects in this article.

  • Workshop: Bloom Boom!

    written by lomographynyc on 2014-05-01 in #events
    Workshop: Bloom Boom!

    Spring is in full swing and we want to capture all the colors of the city. We’ll show you how to use several of our cameras and hit Washington Square Park to see the new floral display.

  • Shop News

    Summer Inspired Camera at 20% off

    Summer Inspired Camera at 20% off

    The brazilian summer inspired camera is now at 20% off! You can now celebrate life in full color and treasure every culture in a snap! This summer is no exception; make sure you’re prepared to capture all the sporty action with the Fisheye No.2 Brazilian Summer Camera!

  • 18 Sensational 6x12 Scenes From The Belair X 6-12

    written by shhquiet on 2015-03-13 in #gear
    18 Sensational 6x12 Scenes From The Belair X 6-12

    Think the Belair X 6-12 medium-format camera is only limited to snapping square shots? Nope! It also gives you the option to shoot other photo formats, such as 6x12. We compiled some of the most impressive photos in this format for your inspiration!

  • How to Adjust the Settings of the Diana F+

    written by chooolss on 2014-05-04 in #lifestyle
    How to Adjust the Settings of the Diana F+

    Make the most out of your Diana F+ by learning how to properly fiddle with its settings. Let our short video tutorial, featuring the Diana F+ Love Letters, teach you how!

  • Photo Fit For An Exhibition

    written by mindofmyra on 2014-08-26 in #competitions
    Photo Fit For An Exhibition

    Have you ever thought that your photos were worthy of having its own exhibit? Well, maybe it is! Take a chance and show us your most creative photographs. From the accidental shot that was taken from your hip or even the posed perfection you ask of your subjects, send us your best photos that define you as a person.

  • Shop News

    Show Off your Pics with Style!

    Show Off your Pics with Style!

    Build vivid hanging LomoCurtains, robust free-standing LomoCastles, and dazzling mounted LomoMosaics! Just click them together with the Lomography Photoclips!

  • Lomo'Instant Accessory Challenge

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-02-04 in #world #competitions
    Lomo'Instant Accessory Challenge

    Do you love being creative? How about instant photography? If the answer is yes, no or maybe, then we've got a jam happening with your name written all over it! Being the most creative instant camera around, it's difficult to imagine the Lomo'Instant becoming any more awesome. But what would happen if you and your pals put on your thinking caps for a Lomo'Instant accessory brainstorming session of the ages — limitless creative potential! Show us your skills by joining the Lomo'Instant Accessory Challenge!

  • Lomopedia: Zorki 4

    written by cheeo on 2014-11-19 in #reviews
    Lomopedia: Zorki 4

    Another Russian camera makes it to the list of cameras to watch out for. Feast your eyes on the Soviet beauty, the Zorki 4.

  • 5 of the Best Ways to Share Your Lomo'Instant Pics

    written by jacobs on 2014-11-25 in #news
    5 of the Best Ways to Share Your Lomo'Instant Pics

    We love sharing photos! So, with the recent release of the beloved Lomo'Instant camera, we thought it would be a great idea to look at some of the best ways to share your instants with the world. Rather than letting them collect dust on a shelf or stay hidden away in a drawer somewhere, why not let everyone else in on your superb instant creations? Check out these 5 awesome ways you can do just that!