The Six Priorities That Determine Where the Eye Looks First [v]

Posted on by Larry

[This is an excerpt from a recent on-line video webinar: “Illustrating Visual Literacy” which is available as a download in our store, or as part of our Video Training Library.]


In a world where videos move millions and a picture is more powerful – and popular – than the written word, a key survival skill is how well you communicate visually. In this short video tutorial, Larry Jordan explains The Six Priorities that determine where the eye looks FIRST in an image and how they help guide a viewer in exploring it.


The Six Priorities That Determine Where the Eye Looks First

TRT: 7:33 — MPEG-4 HD movie



In a world where videos move millions and a picture is more powerful – and popular – than the written word, a key survival skill is how well you communicate visually. Visual communication and storytelling are now essential skills.

From creating presentations to posting videos on YouTube, your ability to effectively communicate your ideas depends, in large part, on your ability to master visual communication.

In this webinar, hosted by Larry Jordan, discover the hidden emotions and techniques of visual images and how to use them to attract, influence and persuade others.

In this session, learn:


This is a beginning-level course, designed for anyone that wants to learn more about creating visual images. This is not about using software tools, but the results you create with those tools.

Visit our website to see lots more video training in our store.

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6 Responses to The Six Priorities That Determine Where the Eye Looks First [v]

  1. You have described an algorithm. I wonder if this could be used to instruct an assistant editing machine to browse hundreds of hours of shots, sort them according to point of interest at in points and out points, then automatically assemble rough edits using jump cuts and/or match cuts.

    • Larry says:

      Interesting concept. Way beyond my skills, however.

      The bigger point is content. Simply because you know the eye looks somewhere in an image, does not make that an appropriate image for that point in your project.

      Think of this more as a compositional tool, than a content-generation tool.


  2. Krzysztof says:

    Hi Larry,
    You attracted me with this topic because I teach about the movie frame perception and the picture perception on my film editing (and photography) classes. Generally I agree with your 6 points – this is the basis. But you are wrong in some interpretations and examples.
    Let’s look at the third picture – with the color square in the middle. We look at the square first not because it is different but because it is the only thing we can identify immediately and is placed in the centre. And additionally emphasised by surrounding circle (it works like underlining text). Children 3-7 could see this picture differently, thought.

    About the fourth picture – two women. I might be wrong but it seems to me that most viewers (me incl.) look first at the woman on the right and after that – at the woman on the left in white t-shirt. Why? Because the woman on the right is doing something, her mount is open – she is in the middle of an action, of doing something (as you said before – we need to observe an action, the movement (danger), not something passive (no treat to us). The woman in white is passive, she is the observer, not the player, we do not need to be afraid of her – she is not important to us. Besides, the face of the woman in color seems to be bigger and brighter (high forehead – no hair – reflecting more light – check vectorscope). The white color of the t-shirt does not play a role here. If you want to prove that brightness matters (which is correct) you should use picture with completely different composition and characters (subjects).

    About the fourth picture – young women. We look at her (first) not because she is bigger then others (you should use another picture to prove this point, eg. with different high boys standing in a raw or different size children blocks in the raw – of the same color each (that is interesting – I promise). We look first at the young women simply because she is the only “thing” here we can recognise. It is not about the size. Prove? Reverse the focus from her to the group behind (the problem here is that she covers up others, but put her to the left – uncover the people behind her, and reverse the focus).

    About your methodology: if you want to prove something, choose right criteria and methods. You cannot prove that size matters if nothing more but the only one big character is legible on the picture.

    The picture with 5 men. Not, they are not the same size. The guy in the middle is inevitably the biggest.
    In visual arts, when perspective matters, we call it the foreground.

    • Larry says:


      Thanks for your comments. I agree with many of them.

      One of the challenges in writing a visual book is balancing the costs of custom photography with the budget available. This was the trade-off I was working with for many of these images.

      My hope is that the publisher will allow me to revise the book in another couple of years, which will allow me more time – and budget – for custom photos. All the images in this video, except one, were from stock footage.

      I will keep your comments in mind as we look to make changes in the future. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


      • Krzysztof says:

        I see your point, I have the same problems when preparing my classes. And although I shoot video- and (sometimes) photos by myself it is hard to find a proper picture to proof something.
        Good luck, anyway, I always read/watch your staff with great interest. They are very helpful.


  3. […] – Larry elaborates on the Six Priorities where the audience’s eye looks first and the sequence of where it will look […]

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