The Hitchcock Theory for Image Placement – How to Use it in Your Content

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By Boris Dzhingarov

The way that Alfred Hitchcock was able to wield a camera and compose a shot has left a lasting impact on the worlds of cinema and photography. Marketers can learn a lot from the way that Hitchcock constructed his imagery and can apply those lessons to their own work.

Left To Right

Hitchcock was known for his use of left and right as a shorthand. In Hitchcock films, he often used a left to right movement in order to indicate the narrative truth; this is best illustrated in the film Vertigo.

Hitchcock exploited are innate understanding of left and right. In parts of the world that read and write from left to right, it seems more natural for us when things flow from left to right. Our eyes will naturally move across an image from left to right when we are examining it, and this is something that marketers can use in order to establish a narrative structure in their visual marketing.

An effective way of building a visual narrative is to take a similar approach to constructing a comic book page. By dividing whatever canvas you are using up into sections and being strategic about what you place in each one, you can suggest a narrative to your audience and have them automatically “read” your image in the same way that they read text.

Even if you aren’t establishing a narrative, you can still take advantage of our natural inclination to move from left to right over an image in order to control the order in which an audience is likely to see the individual components of your content.

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Going Out Of Frame

Sometimes what is out of frame is just as important as what is in the frame. By having characters looking out of the frame and reacting to what they could see but the audience couldn’t, Hitchcock was able to imply what the character was seeing. Equally, it could be used to create ambiguity. For example, in the film Psycho, during the infamous shower scene, the audience can see the victim being murdered while she is looking out of a frame, able to see her killer. The audience does not get to see the killer until much later in the narrative.

Utilizing the space out of frame by having people within the frame looking out of it is an easy way for marketers to suggest a narrative to their audience. Using space out of the frame can also be an effective way for marketers to make their content more immersive. Depending on where your content is going to be placed, there might be quite a lot of scope for you to play with the area outside of the frame. In fact, in many cases, if you are willing to make your frame appear smaller, you can literally have graphics coming out of the frame and into the space around it.

The Camera As A Fourth Wall

In many of Hitchcock’s films, the camera observed events from the fourth wall perspective. If you aren’t sure what this means, think back to the sitcom Friends. Whenever they were in someone’s apartment, the camera would always occupy the position of one of the walls, which was never seen by the audience. This fourth wall perspective is a natural vantage point for a fly on the wall look. It is the vantage point from which the audience act as a neutral observer.

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Hitchcock often used the fourth wall perspective in order to allow the audience to become passive observers to whatever was on folding on screen. An important characteristic of the fourth wall perspective is that the characters within the frame must be oblivious to it. Whenever the fourth will is acknowledged, this is known as breaking the fourth wall, an expression that is shorthand for breaking with the fiction of a piece and addressing the audience directly.

For a marketer, breaking the fourth wall means having the people or characters within your content displaying an awareness that they are a part of a marketing image. An example would be a character or mascot interacting with the letters that spell out your brand name. This is a good technique to use if you want to create more play for marketing and some consumers will be won over by this approach when they are resilient to others.

Voyeurism Works

Voyeurism is a recurring theme throughout Hitchcock’s work, and nowhere is this more evident than in his thriller masterpiece, Psycho. For a content marketer, images that enable the audience to peer in on the lives of other people can be a very powerful tool. This is something that is neatly illustrated by social media influencers.

Part of the reason that social media influencers are able to command the influence and salaries that they do is that they are granting people a glimpse of a more desirable life. They enable people to live vicariously through them with their social media feeds providing a constant glimpse of what the audience aspires to.

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Within the context of marketing, this can commonly be seen in imagery that shows the ideal user of a product. This is why it is always attractive men and women that are used to sell products to the rest of us; it’s all about creating an image that people can aspire to.

However, depending on your audience, you may be able to strike a chord by providing a much more mundane glimpse into someone’s life. Ask yourself exactly what the ideal way for your audience to use your product would be, then create visual marketing that allows audiences a glimpse of what this looks like.

It is impossible to overstate Alfred Hitchcock’s influence on the world of cinema. There are many things that make his films unique, and his visual style is one of them. Hitchcock was a master of suspense. A big part of this was his ability to convey a lot of information succinctly using framing and image placement. Many of his techniques can also be of use to marketers who want to augment their marketing content.