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Composition is KEY

Discussion in 'Cameras and Photography' started by MichaelJ, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Moderator Moderator

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    Becoming a Good photographer is like becoming a good musician. They both take years of study and practice. Buying the most expensive gear will not make you a better photographer any more than buying a Stradivarius will make you Itzhak Perlman. It takes work, years of it, and the study never ends. There is always more to learn no matter how long you have been working at the craft.

    To improve as a photographer you need to study composition. It requires time but good composition is what will begin to elevate images from mere snapshots to something more.

    It doesn’t cost you a single dollar. You don’t have to buy a 2k lens. You just have to think, move around and study the subject before you click the shutter. I know this sounds easy but it’s more difficult than it sounds. It takes years to “train your eye” to SEE what makes an interesting composition but it’s one of the things that separate the great, the good and the average photographer.

    Pick up an Art History book from the library. Study the Old Masters, 18th century landscape painters, Japanese woodcuts, contemporary photography and the masters of the 20th century. See how they used light, line and pattern and you’ll begin to understand what made their images so powerful. Use the internet to study, take a class. The improvement will be startling.

    Check out the links below to get started and enjoy the process!

    http://www.photographymad.com/pages/view/10-top-photography-composition-rules

    http://digital-photography-school.com/digital-photography-composition-tips

    http://photo.tutsplus.com/tutorials/composition/master-the-art-of-photographic-composition/
     
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  2. tybrad

    tybrad 21234

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    Thank you Michael- this was needed.
    There ought to be others on lighting, texture, lens effects, post-production, etc- all as stickies.
     
    willhowl likes this.
  3. chillwolf

    chillwolf "Play 'em off!"

    willhowl likes this.
  4. old_tv_nut

    old_tv_nut See Yourself on Color TV! Subscriber

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  5. onepixel

    onepixel .

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    I break a lot of rules... and can still make a image work. At least in my own mind.
     
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  6. chillwolf

    chillwolf "Play 'em off!"

    Well, aren't rules made to be broken? :scratch2:
     

     

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  7. ebacon

    ebacon Super Member

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    Great thread. Here are some tips for beginners. These tips are plain-language interpretations of what is in the links above.

    - Fill the frame. If you are taking pictures of your prom date then make sure your prom date pretty much fills the frame from head to toe. Same thing for your car, or baby, or insect, or mountain, or whatever.

    - Keep the background clean. Look for distractions such as beer cans, ash trays, dirty dishes, etc. when framing the shot. It only takes one of those things to convert a nice photo of your subject into a trashy shot.

    - Keep the background clean. Look for light poles, flag poles, saplings, etc. behind your subject. The camera will make it look like they are growing out of your girlfriend's head and she won't like that. Neither will you.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
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  8. old_tv_nut

    old_tv_nut See Yourself on Color TV! Subscriber

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    The Lake County Camera Club had a mentoring session on composition at the Mitchell Park Conservatory ("The Domes") in Milwaukee last month, and is duplicating it tomorrow. After tomorrow's session, all the students' images from both sessions will be put on a private web site for mutual viewing and comments.

    Our mentor had us look for examples of three techniques:
    Use of lines (horizontal, vertical or diagonal);
    Simplification (eliminating extraneous content);
    Major and minor elements (for example, a nearby tree and a distant one).

    Since I don't think there is cross membership, I'm posting my results here a few hours early.

    The complete set including original in-camera images and cropped versions is here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/42002845@N02/sets/72157632782082772/

    And here is one example of major/minor:

    This is the original with only typical exposure adjustment in camera. To me, it has too much unimportant greenery on left and right, plus the withered leaf is a big distraction from the red major/minor element.:
    [​IMG]
    IMG_6395 in camera by old_tv_nut, on Flickr

    and edited - This version is cropped to place the flower heads at rule-of thirds points. Also, major modification was done to replace the withered leaf:
    [​IMG]
    IMG_6395cr ps crop adj majorminor by old_tv_nut, on Flickr

    It turned out to be VERY difficult to find images that illustrate particular principles - much easier to find something you like and then see what applies.
     
  9. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Moderator Moderator

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    Rules were made to be broken but it's important to know the rules.
     
  10. old_tv_nut

    old_tv_nut See Yourself on Color TV! Subscriber

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    I don't like to call them rules. At most they're principles, or just techniques.
     
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  11. onepixel

    onepixel .

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    I do agree that composition, principles, techniques and the fundamentals should be learned. Then explore all the possibilities and make your own way on how you want to photograph and create.
     

     

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  12. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Moderator Moderator

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    +1 Reaching that final level: "making your own way on how you want to photograph and create" is what separates a good photographer from an artist.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  13. old_tv_nut

    old_tv_nut See Yourself on Color TV! Subscriber

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  14. onepixel

    onepixel .

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    One reason why I like a lot of megapixels. Is that it allows to fine tune the composition after the image has been taken.
     
  15. No Money

    No Money AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    One bit of advice I give people who attend any workshop I run is, slow down. Think, don't take a lot of photographs, take considered ones. I also don't allow people to crop post shot. The "get it in camera" idea is important to me.
    I learnt a lot from using large format equipment, 5x4, 10x8, where you had to get it right first time, and have taken those ideas with me in my journey. If you only have one "keeper" of a composition from 100 shots then you are not thinking it through. Get your composition right in the camera and not later, on the screen.
     
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  16. old_tv_nut

    old_tv_nut See Yourself on Color TV! Subscriber

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    Slowing down and considering the shot is good. However, one thing I find when I compose carefully and look at the picture later, I may wish I had done it a bit differently. Not sure if this would be different for me if I was viewing a larger image, and I look forward to finding out when I have time to try some shooting tethered to a tablet. So, using the optical viewfinder, I find that composing, then zooming out about 10% sometimes saves the shot when I consider it even further later on. The ease of cropping digital shots is a tool that should not be thrown away by cropping too close in the first place, IMO. But of course, if most of your shots are really throw-aways, and/or you end up cropping large parts of the picture, you should improve by more careful composition in the first place.
     

     

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  17. trhee

    trhee ㅇtㅈyㅅr

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    My suggestion for learning composition with a camera is stick on a 35mm or 50mm prime lens and shoot with that one lens for a few months. In time, you'll be able to see the world within that focal length and frame lines of that lens.

    Take multiple shots of a scene with static objects from different perspectives, different placements and different compositions. When you get home, take a look and compare those images and study them. Over time, slowly you'll see why certain images work and why certain ones don't.

    When looking at a composition, there's what artists call "negative space". The parts of the image that has nothing or nothing to do with anything. Many times, negative space is just as important as the subject matter.

    I was fortunate enough to go to Parsons School of Design way back when and have my artwork critiqued and ripped apart by my professors and that was the way I learned about various aspects of art. For most people though, photography as a hobby is something to be enjoyed so take your time and have fun with the learning process. Composition being just one aspect of photography.
     
  18. newfie

    newfie New Member

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    sounds like a guy who used to have to pay for developing results:)
    My Dad shoots the same way. I was at the tail end of film and definitely shoot more shots digital and I believe the deliberate shooting of film guys is a big advantage. I tend to not shoot much at all, til I see what I want (land scape for ex)...then look out.
    When I get home it gets tough to find a keeper because I might have basically two scenes...200shots
     
  19. Bob in WI

    Bob in WI AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Interesting. Thanks for posting.
     
  20. sum of sand

    sum of sand Active Member

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    You cant break the rules and have a good image
    What you have done is simply advanced beyond the cheatsheet of rules to the true single principal of good composition that all those rules stem from

    Balance

    You cant have a good photo without it
     

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