Answer: Yep, yesterday’s image was flipped horizontally. Note the left-handed musicians and the backwards treble clef.
I will do this to an image if I think it might flow better if flipped. We western “civilization” types tend to have minds that work from left to right because that is the way our languages read…our brains have learned that, for us, things flow more naturally that way. On the other hand, a right-to-left flow in an picture might cause us to feel tension, or subtly uncomfortable. This could be exactly what you want to do with a photograph. Or not. But, it is always an option to keep in the back of your creative mind.
(Now what if you read fluently in both English and Arabic or Hebrew? How might that affect how you view artistic images? Hmmm…that is an interesting question!)
When not to flip?
Here are a few times when it doesn’t make sense to do it:
1) When you are just doing it for no real compositional reason…that is, just to click a button in Photoshop.
2) When there are objects in the image that don’t look correct when reversed (like printing, or the treble clef in yesterday’s image). Example:
3) When photographing well-known, iconic subjects…Yosemite Valley, say. Or Maroon Bells Peaks. Or even the Flatirons here in Boulder. To those familiar with these landmarks, your image will just look like a bad mistake. To wit (for you Boulderites):
Here is an example of an image that has a completely different feel when flipped horizontally (to me, at least). In this first case, this is how the original composition appeared, with a decided right-to-left flow:
Now, here is what it looks like when flipped horizontally to give it a left-to-right flow:
Does the second image feel different to you? Does one image feel more natural and relaxed than the other? Does one move your eye around more comfortably than the other? Hopefully, you can sense intuitively that there is a difference between the two. Can you verbalize this difference? In this example, no one will ever be the wiser if you decide to flip the photograph horizontally–so do what your creative instincts tell you to do.
Another one for your bag o’ tricks. So, happy flipping!