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7 ?Composition isn't just arty-farty pretension...


I make no great claims for my photography. But I do try very hard not to be boring.
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7 –Composition isn't just arty-farty pretension...

15 Jan 2015 2:34PM   Views : 1109 Unique : 410

Along with light, composition is my big interest in the Critique Gallery. It matters. It's about how we involve viewers, get them sufficiently interested to look at pictures, to explore them.

I get very annoyed when I hear (as I do sometimes) 'Concentrate on getting technique right, you can think about extras like composition later.' The way I see it, the two work together, they need each other. There is no point in taking technically perfect pictures that are so boring that nobody will want to look at them.

I'm not sure that composition can be taught, but it can certainly be learned, partly by thinking about how the brain responds to an image. There's a wonderful book, The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman, which examines just that. It takes images and traces out the path that the eye will follow, explains why of two apparently similar images one may work far better than the other.

When I first read it I was slightly shocked, in that it analyses things that I had always regarded as sacred mysteries. Read it and you will learn and understand a lot.

A great bit of advice that I heard ages ago – 'Every picture needs a way in for the viewer'. Add to that, once the viewer is in the picture there needs to be a route for the eye to explore. That applies to landscape, to abstracts, to flowers, to street...

It's worth avoiding anything that creates a barrier to the eye, that says 'Keep out'. I remember a CG picture of a floodlit park with a high chicken-wire fence in the foreground. It looked remarkably like a prison compound. It said 'Keep out', it didn't invite the viewer in.

Something we often see is an image with a big empty fore/middle ground space. It creates a sort of No-Man's-Land.

A hand raised and obscuring part of a face is difficult to make work, it looks like a refusal to communicate. Similarly a closed gate in the foreround, or a precipitous cliff-edge immediately in front of us. They can work, brilliantly; it's just trickier.

Diagonals leading into the frame, zig-zagging lines, they give a dynamic feel , and they say 'Come in, wander round, this is an interesting place'.

Triangles or circles of interest create a route for the eye to follow from one point to the next to the next...

Every subject is something new, look at it individually and look for the way in. Always be aware that you are placing a rectangular frame of whatever shape over what you are looking at, the lines inside it need to work. What you omit is irrelevent, the viewer doesn't see that. It's just about what's in the frame.

I've got this far without once mentioning the Rule of Thirds. I shall leave that for the next post.

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JackAllTog Avatar
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
15 Jan 2015 9:15PM
Many thanks for sharing your guide to composition , i'm looking for more quick commentary on ideas in the ephotozine arena and the blogs do seem to have some interesting quick snippets. I'll go read some of your other now....

I've also a book by Michael Freeman called the photographers mind - i've just not read it yet. Pulled forward for next on the list now thanks

Best wishes
mrswoolybill Avatar
mrswoolybill Plus
16 4.6k 2635 United Kingdom
15 Jan 2015 9:25PM
Read it, I don't find it mind-blowing in the same way as The Photographer's Eye, but it's damn good.
Relic01 Avatar
Relic01 11 8 Canada
8 Jul 2015 3:36PM
many thanks for for your willingness to share your experience and views. While I am "right out of the box" new to photography, I am feeling quite drawn to the composition part of the craft. That being said, I look forward to seeing more of your work and reading more of your blogs/posts.

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