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Composition Advice

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Mark_24
Mark_24  2 United Kingdom
31 Mar 2013 - 10:40 PM

I'm looking for a bit of "advice" with regard to composition building. I use the "advice" loosely as every shot can break any of the rules.

In an ideal world (the one NO ONE lives in) I would like to build a better picture or tell a better story. Having only been serious about photography for just over 12 months, it is one area that I am struggling with Sad

I have experimented with the rule of 3rds, however, most of my images are Centrally based (ie portraits or subjects in centre of image) and I am now looking for more creative images.

Should space be left at left or right hand side of image (with a moving subject), foreground interest leading from left to right/right to left, that sort of thing. Are lines better leading from left to right or vice versa?

I am hoping that with the vast experience you all have, I will be able to enhance my hobby and enjoy my images more I the future.

Thanks in advance

Mark

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31 Mar 2013 - 10:40 PM

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whipspeed
whipspeed e2 Member 104040 forum postswhipspeed vcard United Kingdom22 Constructive Critique Points
31 Mar 2013 - 11:22 PM

Well advice for moving subjects is that it doesn't matter what side of the image the subject is, as long as they have room to move into the shot. ie you wouldn't have a racing car with it's nose on the edge of the shot and space behind, it just doesn't work.
As for the rule of thirds, stick with it, the results are generally pleasing on the eye, then when you know how composition works, you can sometimes break the rules with good results.
Study lots of images in the genre you like and try to work out why you like them and why they are pleasing to the eye, classic paintings can be quite a valuable tool in this, or at least I have found I've learnt from them.

Coast
Coast Critique Team 6940 forum postsCoast vcard United Kingdom290 Constructive Critique Points
31 Mar 2013 - 11:23 PM

Having looked at your portfolio I would say you have a good eye for composition.

I would say make images that please you first and foremost. Play around with composition which will help you develop creativity. Post on here, critique gallery is where you can ask for specific views and will mostly get the response that may help. Use those responses to help shape your creativity and understanding of what works.

Some believe that in the western world we read left to right so it's good to get lead in lines and foreground interest also coming in from the left to lead the viewer into the rest of the frame. Other schools of thought say it depends on right or left brain dominance as to what can drive a persons preference.

Personally I feel it's intuition built up over time. Understanding the rules of composition and knowing what feels right. Feels balanced. Understanding the basics of composition helps you break the rules or stretch the rules in a way that can work.

Above all just take lots of photos and this will help develop your eye further.

Hope that helps.

arhb
arhb e2 Member 72197 forum postsarhb vcard United Kingdom67 Constructive Critique Points
31 Mar 2013 - 11:25 PM

Hi Mark,
my basic advice is to use your camera regularly, and give yourself a long time frame in which you can improve.
Try shooting your portraits in landscape mode, with your subject on the left or right third.
Shoot some landscapes in portrait mode.
Take a few shots of everything - different angles(left/right/low/high) so on review you can see the different effect it has on the image.

Take some time to look at some photography that you like, and consider what elements make the image appealing to you, then go and apply those elements to your own photography.

.

Jestertheclown
31 Mar 2013 - 11:43 PM

There are no rules of composition; merely guidelines.
Compose your images in whichever way suits you best. If you're happy with the results, then that's all that matters.
Over time, you'll find that you're placing things, without thinking about it, in or around the shot in a manner that roughly relates to these so-called rules anyway.
You might want to (very briefly) read about these guidelines, just so that you're aware of them but whatever you do, don't get hung up on trying to observe them.

Bren.

ErictheViking
ErictheViking e2 Member 1124 forum postsErictheViking vcard Scotland102 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 9:22 AM

Hi Mark
Like you I 've only began taking serious photographs in the last couple of years so here is what I've learned and forgive me if I repeat anything said in the other posts.

There are no rules in photography just guidelines as Bren said, but the biggest decider for all images is your own eye and how it looks to you as the image creator. Having said this there are some guideline that are best followed if possible.

1. In portraits or images with people try and leave some space in front of the person in the direction they are looking. This gives the viewer the impression of the subject looking off into the distance. This is something you have done naturally in the image "Capped Preacher"

2. Try to avoid anything being in the centre of the image in "capped Preacher" the tree unfortunately is almost dead centre and draws the eye away from the main subject. Look at the crop below and see how things can be changed.

2.jpg

This is just a simple crop from your original image, but repositioning the main subjects to keep things away from the centre. If your unsure how the composition should be take a slightly wider shot and experiment with crops later at home.

3. There is no right and wrong and along the way you will make mistakes which only become obvious when you look at previous images over again. The true test of if its right is to make the adjustments, leave it for a few days and then look at it again. If it still looks good you got it right, if not try again and remember some images just never seem to be the way you imagined them to be.

You've made use of the critique service and we are all happy to give advice on how we think an image can be improved but the final test is your own opinions.

Good luck with the next images.

Erik

rhol2
rhol2 e2 Member 3287 forum postsrhol2 vcard United Kingdom1 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 9:25 AM


Quote: There are no rules of composition; merely guidelines.
Compose your images in whichever way suits you best. If you're happy with the results, then that's all that matters.
Over time, you'll find that you're placing things, without thinking about it, in or around the shot in a manner that roughly relates to these so-called rules anyway.
You might want to (very briefly) read about these guidelines, just so that you're aware of them but whatever you do, don't get hung up on trying to observe them.

Bren.

Couldn't agree more..the "rule of thirds",in particular, is quite often misunderstood and applied inappropriately.

llareggub
llareggub  4679 forum posts United Kingdom
1 Apr 2013 - 9:56 AM

"Consume" as much imagery as you can, you will work out for yourself what works and what does not.

People are correct in saying that there are no "rules", there are however common ratios that we encounter every single day, so much so that we just accept them as normal, appropriate and aesthetically correct and that is why these "rules" exist.

camay
camay  7119 forum posts Scotland3 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 10:03 AM

One of the most comprehensive books I have found on composition is one that was published privately a couple of years ago, Photographic Composition by Geoff Roe. You can only buy it directly from him, sending a cheque for £12 plus £2 p&p to PO Box 220, Bramhall, Stockport Sk7 2UZ. In particular I like his approach to colour. I read on line a review in Amateur Photographer, bought it on an impulse and I don't regret it. It is quite small, with line drawings illustrating points, and limited photographs, more academic then most books.
The other book I like is Michael Freemlan's The Photographer's Eye. I find a book useful when I want to get out of a rut.
Most of the stuff on line hardly goes beyond the rule of thirds and leading lines, so best to get a book and see what else is involved in composition.

puertouk
puertouk  21063 forum posts United Kingdom17 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 10:21 AM

People read from left to right, well, most do. This goes for photography. Lead from the left side to the right, which will hopefully make people look longer at your work.

whatriveristhis
whatriveristhis e2 Member 163 forum postswhatriveristhis vcard England71 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 2:25 PM

"Coast" gives you good advice.
We tend to "read" an image from left to right, yes, but ideally it is best to compose so that something sits in the right -hand side of the frame. This has the effect of preventing the eye from "falling off" the edge of the picture, allowing it to come to a definite stop at the end of it's track. Makes everything that bit tighter and more satisfying.
But my main advice, echoing "Coast" and "Erictheviking," is~ Push the rules into the background. If you follow rules you risk producing images that just look like everybody elses. Do you want that? If you've a good eye, it will tell you what's right and what isn't.

mrswoolybill
mrswoolybill Critique Team 7407 forum postsmrswoolybill vcard United Kingdom991 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 3:07 PM

I'll endorse camay's recommendation for The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman. It's about how the eye reads an image, how it travels within the frame, directed by the elements of the composition; why some images are dynamic, some static; how choice of format and proportions affect our perceptions; why you can have two apparently similar images and one works far better than the other. Read it carefully and a lot of things will fall into place.
We need to understand the 'rules' in order to judge when they can be broken creatively.
A little story: last winter I devoted one of our U3A Photography group meetings to composition. I put together a collection of classic textbook rule-of-third landscapes and showed them.
The members were knocked out by the first one. The next couple went down pretty well. Fairly soon after that the word 'predictable' came up. By number ten, their attention was turning to the cake and chocolate biscuits.
Freeman devotes quite a bit of space to the Golden Mean but doesn't mention the RoT once!

whatriveristhis
whatriveristhis e2 Member 163 forum postswhatriveristhis vcard England71 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 3:25 PM

P.S. Whilst there are some good books on Composition, I personally feel you could learn much from looking at paintings - partly because as a photographer you'd be less likely to simply try and copy them. Looking at any of the "Old Masters" or more modern painters such as Cezanne, Matisse, Ben Nicholson, David Hockney, will teach you a great deal about space and how to divide it, and much else besides.

samueldilworth

I have Michael Freeman’s books, The Photographer’s Eye and The Photographer’s Mind. They’re good, though it takes a concerted effort to read them from cover to cover – not helped by Freeman’s dry writing style.

These two books are nothing like the flimsy, thrown-together books that fill up photography how-to sections in bookshops. They’re dense, wide-ranging, historically informed, sometimes academic tomes, filled with hundreds of precisely chosen example photos.

I also have a beautiful hardback book by Harald Mante called The Photograph: Composition and Color Design, translated from German by Thomas Campbell. I don’t know whether the author or the translator is to blame, but this book is also very dry. What’s more, Mante enjoys repeating himself and stating the obvious. Sometimes these obvious statements are illuminating simply because they exist, much like a snapshot derives power from being placed in a formal gallery, but sometimes they’re tedious. Still, this book will make you think. It will also, probably, give you new language to better describe and understand composition.

Amazon.co.uk has a five-star review of Mante’s book by…Michael Freeman. The translator Thomas Campbell also finds it fitting to give the book a five-star review. There’s only one other review, but don’t let that put you off: this book is worth buying. Just make sure you get the second edition rather than the first edition (with the reviews) I linked to above.

I was so intrigued by camay’s mention of Geoffrey Roe’s Photographic Composition that I just ordered it from Waterstones. Whether they’ll ship it is another matter (it’s not in stock). It could be that you really do have to write a personal cheque to Mr Roe. I’ll let you know.

iancrowson
iancrowson e2 Member 4211 forum postsiancrowson vcard United Kingdom128 Constructive Critique Points
1 Apr 2013 - 11:52 PM


Quote: P.S. Whilst there are some good books on Composition, I personally feel you could learn much from looking at paintings - partly because as a photographer you'd be less likely to simply try and copy them. Looking at any of the "Old Masters" or more modern painters such as Cezanne, Matisse, Ben Nicholson, David Hockney, will teach you a great deal about space and how to divide it, and much else besides.

I would personally advise you to follow this advice. Spend time in the galleries studying the masters. Train your eye to recognise a good composition. Study books of award winning photos and you will see 'the rules' are not as ignored as might be suggested.

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