Sunday, April 10, 2016



I don't think we can learn enough about composition.  Every professional photographer who has ever taught composition, teaches composition from a different angle (no pun intended).  Each perspective of composition is unique. True, there are the standard rules of composition that every one knows, but, there are perspectives about how to apply those rules that make the photographer better.  

Today, I am posting two articles from photographers that just impressed me so much, I wanted to share these with everyone.  So, please read through them, learn from them, and we shall all become better photographers because of it.  I read through both of these articles and I am excited to try these things out myself.  


5 things you should know about composition:

Composition is an interesting aspect of photography because there are no absolutes. It’s mostly opinion. Compose an image a certain way and some people will like it, some people won’t. You can argue for hours about why a photo works, or why it doesn’t.
But amongst this variation of opinion something interesting occurs. It seems that we all know when a photo is well composed, even if we can’t agree why.
The challenge is in analyzing and understand the underlying principles, and then applying them to our own work.
Here then, to get you started, is my list of five things all photographers ought to know about composition. 
1- Great Composition is the mark of a great photographer:
If you want to learn more about composition, go study the work of Steve McCurry. The beauty of the composition of his images often leaves me speechless. His work shows a mastery of design that most photographers can only aspire to.
The same applies to every great photographer. Go and look at the work of the photographers you admire most. Two things will stand out. One is the mastery they have over their craft, the technical aspects—exposure, aperture choice, post-processing, and so on.
The other is their mastery of composition. This is much harder because it involves learning to see, and to arrange an often chaotic subject into a pleasing and interesting composition.
studying composition
2- Composition takes years to master:
Seeing and composing great images requires a lifelong commitment to learning and improving. Don’t read a single article, or a single book, no matter how good, on composition and think that’s all you have to do. You should read as much as you can on the subject, then apply what you learn. There’s always something new to discover, a different author’s perspective to absorb.
3- Working in Black and White tests your composition skills:
If you really want to test your composition skills out then work in black and white. The reason this works so well is that subtracting color reveals the underlying structure of the subject’s tonal contrast, texture, line, shape, space, and pattern.
These are your tools for creating good black and white images. Learn how to use them, then return to color and learn how to integrate color with other elements of composition.
The photo below works well in black and white because of the textures within the scene, the perspective created by using a wide-angle lens and moving in close to the car, and the tonal contrast (the car and the sheet covering the windscreen are the lightest parts).
rules of composition
There is also a diagonal line that takes your eye through the frame.
composition diagonal
The color version includes all these elements. But they are far more obvious in the black and white version.
using color in photography composition
4- Compose your subject according to balance:

Many photos are composed according to a simple formula. There is a single main subject, and you need to work out where to place it in the frame, in relation to the background.
The rule of thirds is one of the concepts that photographers use when it comes to framing. There’s nothing wrong with that, but my suggestion is that you think of placement in terms of balance instead.
Where do you need to place your subject in the frame so that it balances with everything else? It might be on a third, it might not. That doesn’t matter. What matters is does it balance?
Sometimes you can go the other way and create unbalanced images, which have a different effect on the viewer altogether.
In this photo, I placed the rocks near the bottom of the frame because that’s where they balance against the sea and the sky.
subject at bottom of framesubject at bottom of frame
5- Light, subject and composition work together:
My final suggestion is that composition doesn’t work in isolation. Light and subject are equally important. Great photos are usually with an interesting subject, photographed in beautiful light, and composed an in interesting or dramatic way. Light, subject and composition go together.

are  you making these composition mistakes?
I see photographers making these five common composition mistakes all the time. It’s part of the learning process and every photographer works their way through it.
black and white composition
What common composition mistakes do you see photographers make? 

There’s nothing wrong with the rule of thirds as long as you recognize that it’s only a guideline (it shouldn’t really be called a rule). There are times when it works, and times when you need to move beyond it and look for different ways to compose your photos.
Deeper concepts are involved, such as balance, use of line, tonal contrast and negative space. Once you start to understand what these are, and how to use them, the composition of your photos will get stronger.

There are no absolutes in composition. There are always different approaches, new ways to compose images, new ways of seeing. The worst thing you can do is think that there is nothing new to learn. I’ve been taking photos for over 20 years and I’m still learning, especially from photographers who are good at composition. It’s a lifelong journey, and it’s impossible to know everything there is about seeing and composition.
Go and study the work and ideas of the photographers you admire the most. How do they compose their photos? How do they balance subject, light and composition? Which lenses do they use? What aperture settings? Analyze it all and then apply what you learn to your own photos.
This point is related to the first. If you think that all you have to do is use the rule of thirds then you have only scratched the surface of composition. If you stop there, and don’t move on, then you will never learn how to make more beautiful, compelling images.

Zoom lenses are wonderful. They are convenient and versatile. However, they don’t teach you much about the effect of focal length on composition.
Even the humble 18-55mm kit lens is a moderate wide-angle at 18mm, a normal lens at around 30mm and a short telephoto at 55mm. If you move around between these settings without thinking, you will never learn about the different lens types and their effect on composition.
My preference is for primes. When you use a prime lens you really learn how to get the best from that focal length. You’ll learn what happens to line and perspective when you move closer to your subject, or further away. You’ll learn the strengths of that focal length and its weaknesses. Creativity loves constraints, and you will find ways to use that focal length creatively that would never have occurred to you otherwise.
If you have a zoom lens, try this exercise. Pick a focal length and stick with it for a day, a week or a month. Apply masking tape to the zoom ring to keep it in place if you have to. Then go and learn how that focal length works.
This photo was taken with a 35mm lens on my Fujifilm X-T1. It has become one of my favorite lenses, especially for walking around with and taking photos. I’ve learned a lot about this lens by using it so much.
tips for mastering composition

Robert Capa is often quoted as saying, “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.”
Here are a couple of things to think about.
Are you physically close enough to your subject? Sometimes you need to get closer to your subject and fill the frame, especially with wide-angle lenses. If you are too far away then the photo loses impact.
Are you emotionally close enough to your subject? For example, if you are photographing a landscape that means something to you personally, that you have connected with or identified with on a deeper level than just thinking it’s pretty, then you will take deeper, more intimate photos of it.
It’s the same with people. If you identify with and relate to somebody on a personal level, if you are genuinely interested in the people that you photograph, then you will make better portraits of them.
I made this portrait of artist Chris Meeks during a visit to his studio. We spent several hours talking about art and life as he showed me how he created his artwork. This created a rapport that came across in the photos.
portrait photography composition


Having said that, there are times when you need to give your subject room to breathe. You need to provide a space in the frame for your subject to occupy. This is called negative space.
How do you know when you need to get closer to your subject, or when you need to give it some negative space? There isn’t an easy answer. My advice is to follow your gut. What does your instinct tell you? The more you learn about composition, the easier it gets to rely on your instinct which is really your subconscious mind processing the knowledge you have absorbed about composition and letting you know how it feels.
Work your subject. Take a variety of photos—some closer, some farther away (with negative space)—and analyze them afterwards. You’ll soon learn what works and what doesn’t.
The first photo above is of the famous and much photographed Wanaka Tree (New Zealand photographers will know what I’m talking about). I left space around it, rather than use a longer focal length, to show the tree in its mountainous environment.

Two great articles on composition.  The one point I like the most is in the article:  Mistakes we make in Composition:  Not learning from other photographers.  Isn't that so true.  We have the resources to look at a lot of photos, and learn from the great photos we see.  I have developed this blog to A- learn how to become a good photographer, then B- Learn from the great photographers out there.  That is why I have "Photos of the Week"  and other things for us to learn from.  So, please take the time to read through these, and then view all the photos that are posted so you too can become a better photographer.  

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