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Composition in photography

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  #31  
Old 05-26-2008, 01:23 PM
One4UAll One4UAll is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

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Originally Posted by Janet Petty View Post
What I'd like to begin a discussion about is composition. What makes us all want to take that little focus point in the center of the screen and leave our subject smack dab in the middle? What about photo real estate, negative space, leading lines, telling a story, etc., etc.? What about interest, the decisive moment, telling a story, color, contrast, and on and on?
Janet, I think you may be overloading your students and yourself with these questions, unless these are issues you introduce gradually over a period of time. There's a phrase, "the photographer's eye." Coined probably 70 yrs ago. It's not how you see things as they are, but how they will look in a print. I imagine the phrase came from the art world. Lonnie's link is very good.

Nothing is more essential than assimilating the Rule of Thirds. Like any rule, it can be broken, but it's a starting point. Have your students cut out a 4x5" opening in a piece of black matte board. Then, two students working together frame a portrait of each other. Insist they avoid the center in framing. Have the eyes as the focal point. Have them do an eye-level close-up; another back about 5-6 feet. Mess around, positioning the eyes at upper left, upper right, etc., in the frame. Use both vertical and horizontal orientations. Maybe a low angle; maybe a high angle. Options, always options.

Go out into the hallway. Frame that for diagonals. Go outdoors, etc. They must determine the focal point of their vision, for that's what they must compose to the Rule of Thirds, like the eyes of a portrait subject. Unless they're going to be photojournalists, where an event or subject must be centered. For example, the famous photo of the flag raising over Iwo Jima in WWII. In most situations, I think, they will have more control.

It's really something one has to think about when photographing. I've many times aimed at a centered subject & then thought, "Oh, no. I've got to put this off center, somehow." So, time permitting, I played around with the viewfinder. It's a matter of training, of developing a photographer's eye; it's like learning any other skill. Eventually, it becomes instinctive & one of the curses I have when I don't have a camera is avoiding seeing scenes as a photographer instead of just enjoying the scene for what it is.

I'm not a professional. I've never taught a photo course. I am one who thinks he has some pretty good stuff. Hope this helps.

David
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  #32  
Old 05-26-2008, 11:00 PM
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Janet Petty Janet Petty is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

I'm thrilled with the discussion this thread is generating. I'm pleased people are feeling free to take the subject and figuratively run with it.

I agree the rules are there to be broken and that art, interest, or whatever one may call their photography is in the control of the person taking the picture. I also agree that if you don't please yourself, you don't really end up happy with the finished result.

The subjects I threw out for the initial question in the first post weren't necessarily just for students but for those of us entering this discussion who might want fuel for the fire. It is great that we are taking the subject of composition and discovering it in all of its facets.

This is great stuff folks.

Janet
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  #33  
Old 05-26-2008, 11:03 PM
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Janet Petty Janet Petty is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

Hawkeye, I like the picture. I like the crop. I like the colors, the leading lines, the place you took the photo. But what I like most about it is that you took a once-in-a-lifetime shot, one that will give you memories for years, and took joy in the doing.

Thank you for sharing it.

Janet
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  #34  
Old 05-27-2008, 10:43 AM
One4UAll One4UAll is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

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Originally Posted by Frank Lopes View Post
Here is an exercise for you all: a panoramic that I shot a couple of weeks ago. I'm curious to see how each of you would crop this image. And please explain why you elected to do it the way you did it. Later I'll post my version.
Frank, Nice pano. You have captured both the view of a golf course on a sunny Sunday morning and the activity that goes with it. Wait for it: I don't know the purpose for which you composed this pano. I assume you aimed left, then right & stitched in your image editor.

I think the left portion is superior to the right portion, as I've cropped, below. I think the little bay with the rust-colored trees above it is the focal point & the crop follows the Rule of Thirds, with further info re: the golf course to the left, with the "S" curve of the shore leading the eye into the trees. It's a very nice image of the golf course.

The right side is less successful for reasons others have already stated. The only compositional element I notice is triangulation between the golf carts and the fountain, with that triangulation repeated in the fountain, itself.

The fountain could only be a compositional element if it's included with the trees by cropping out the left & right sides, altho this loses a lot of info re: the golf course on the left side. I suppose the center crop could be a compromise between the left & right sides & it all depends on what you want.

I've tried to present my crops of left, right, & center views below. I know others have already covered much of what I say, but I can't detail all that & credit everyone, with all due respect to them.

I'm surprised this subject has so many responses as there are so many courses like Janet's, magazines, books, and Internet coverage. But, it's good. It all starts with clicking the shutter. You can save a lot of time post-editing by getting it right in the first place.

Not that I'm an expert, but I don't click the shutter until I've got the image exactly or nearly as I want, for the purpose I want, and if Janet can get a view camera & have her class look at an upside down, reversed image on the ground glass, that would help them concentrate on the compositional elements instead of the scene as it is. Working with ground glass does wonders for developing the photographer's eye. And, Janet must realize that some people will never get it. Oh, they could, but they don't want the time & trouble. Working with ground glass completely changed my way of looking at a scene & this was done very young.

It gets to what you want: a landscape? a family or news event (composition doesn't matter)? a portrait? publication? art? personal collection? The more you decide the purpose in advance, the more or less composition applies.

David
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  #35  
Old 05-27-2008, 11:18 AM
One4UAll One4UAll is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

hawkeye, would like to see the image before you cropped it.
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  #36  
Old 05-27-2008, 01:24 PM
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Janet Petty Janet Petty is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

I do have to set the record straight in one area. And I quote, "I've been helping teach beginners..." I don't get paid for what I do. I just volunteer and I HELP the real teacher on occasion when he can't be there. I love to teach, used to teach Photoshop to beginners; but quit in favor of retirement. Now I'm just me. Again . Hurrah for ME

Grinning,

Janet
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  #37  
Old 05-27-2008, 02:15 PM
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LonK LonK is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

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Originally Posted by hawkeye60 View Post
Great topic. This is a picture I took in Morocco last year, without any real thought towards composition, this is the way I cropped it. Just what I felt was pleasing to my eye.

I'd be interested in the thoughts of others, as to how they would have treated it. And why.
That is a nice shot, hawkeye. My question would be to you. What specifically compelled you to crop the photo as you did? What is it about that crop that you find makes it so much better than the original?

The so-called "rules of composition" is, IMO, a misnomer. Better would be "guidelines of effective composition". Most beneficial of these guidelines is that they provide a common vocabulary to communicate why a particular image is effective. Else trying to explain "because it is pleasing to my eye" or "I like it", is simply going to be an exercise in futility.

Last edited by LonK; 05-27-2008 at 02:38 PM.
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  #38  
Old 05-27-2008, 02:19 PM
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hawkeye60 hawkeye60 is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

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Originally Posted by One4UAll View Post
hawkeye, would like to see the image before you cropped it.

The image on the left is before I cropped, he right one is after.
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  #39  
Old 05-27-2008, 02:36 PM
Mike Abbott Mike Abbott is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

Interesting discussion...

One of the things that I think leads beginners down the 'bulls eye' approach is todays auto focus systems. Inevitably the best AF sensor is bang in the middle of the frame - basically it says 'go on - aim for the bulls eye!'. While I realise you could encourage them to focus lock and recompose, that's just another thing to handle amongst many, so I can understand if it gets abandoned in favour of the AF bulls eye approach. If your students have cameras that are capable of being manually focused you might request that do an assignment with AF switched off. That would force the issue. It might help them consider the composition, rather than being sub-consiously hindered by thinking about getting the AF on the bulls eye.

Mike A.
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  #40  
Old 05-27-2008, 02:53 PM
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hawkeye60 hawkeye60 is offline
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Re: Composition in photography

Lonk, thank you for comments. I posted this mainly to see how others would handle the crop, perhaps on some sort of techincal composition basis, rather than my "seat of the pants approach".

But to answer your question of why I chose to crop as I did:

I felt there was too much sky which made the horizon almost split the image in two. The white wall on the right and the staircase leading down, was distracting to me and I felt it would lead the viewers eye in that direction. The bottom edge of the sea wall and the top edge of the blue building (in red) created a converging line that would tend to draw attention more to the central area of the photograph.
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