@ David: just to get a head start on the subject, I would start with "The photographer's eye" by Michael Freeman.
Composing your image, preferences?(60 posts) (16 voices)
.... but feel like I might have taken that shot to tight but don't know. If I had taken a wider shot where would I put the space??? At the bottom left corner giving the penguin somewhere to swim too???
I think you've got the right idea here David. For a photo like this I would probably make 3 "looks". The first one as you did, a close-up, to show the face although I would have shot it a bit wider so as not to cut off the penguin's flippers, number 2 would be a wide shot showing environment perhaps placing the penguin dead center, and finally the 3rd shot as you stated - placing the penguin in one of the intersecting rule-of-thirds corners and giving it visually somewhere to swim. That's what your eyes and brain want to confirm - where is it going?
Some time ago I read a short interview with a wildlife photographer who stated that many inexperienced photographers spend so much money to go on safari and come home with nothing but close-up images of animals or their faces. Well, you could go to the local zoo to get those shots. Instead they need to capture more habitat and environment surrounding those animals. Those tend to be the most dramatic images. That's why I tend to find zoo shots uninteresting if I see even the slightest hint of fencing or crowds in the background.
The book that Benji2005 mentions above is a good one. I have it although I haven't read it cover to cover the information is excellent. I tend to compose my photos the way my mind wants to see them - many of which reflect "rules" that I've never even studied. People learn things differently. Some have to read before doing whereas others may look at other works of art and formulate his or her own styles from those works. That said, I'd like to recommend taking a look at the book "Though the Lens - National Geographic Greatest Photographs". It's not a how-to or instructional book. It's a "treasure trove that showcases hundreds of unforgettable photographs from the world's finest photographers." ( I credit that phrase from the back cover) You could learn a lot about composition from this type of book by just seeing how the photographer framed these great works.
David: You are starting in the right place: asking questions as you view your own photos. Too many people buy an expensive camera, place the subject in the center of the frame and pat themselves on the back for making an image which is properly exposed and in focus. Yes, it is an image but that image isn't art. To move from producing images to producing art you have to ask the questions you are asking.
Now a brief word for all of us; and a commercial for the modern high megapixel (anything over 12mp) cameras. While it is easy to look at an image of moving objects and criticize it for weaknesses (like my basketball players) you don't know when something will happen or have time to "set up" for it when it does. I cannot shoot the whole basketball game at 10fps hoping to find the right image in that huge stack of images (or maybe you can if it is a short event and you can "rip off bursts" but then you have so many shots to process before the paper's deadline shortly after the game). With moving animals and people you do have to anticipate and shoot in bursts. I was shooting single shots at the time the one player happened to yell at the other. I was tying to anticipate the action which would occur, trying to get a shot of the player taking a shot and then this event happened before the player was in position to shoot. The point is that with moving animals and people you have to shoot what happens when it happens as best you can. Some composition can take place after you have the shot, especially if you have a high megapixel body which lets you crop out about half of the original image. Hence my praise for modern high megapixel cameras and my suggestion to someone like David to "shoot a bit wide" at first (leave some space around your image when you first shoot it) so you can try various compositions as you crop it during post processing. That is one way to learn. The more you know what you like the closer you can crop right to it as you shoot the original image. Just an idea.
Msmoto's art museum idea if very good. Attend docent lead tours, when possible. Remember these people typically painted a painting over a period of months: they planned out exactly what they were going to do before they did it: they planned the position of each object in the frame: they chose each color used. Ask yourself: Why did the artist make the choices he or she did? The painting wasn't done quickly as we do most of our photographs (unless you are composing in a studio or in a landscape).
Thanks benji, I have added that book to my reading list.
Thanks Rx4Photo, I have added that book for review of varies compositions.
msmoto, I like you idea of going to the museum and trying various recompositions using your card technique. Will need to give that a try.
Donald, are you trying to tell me to get a higher megapixel camera. :-) Don't temp me.
There are quite a few good points.
What I would like to add, perhaps from a historical perspective, is that some photographs had a specific dimension in width and height, color or b&w, and specific density in saturation, regardless of topic or subject matter. Newspapers used to be columns (measured in picas) by inches (in the US), magazines varied in their size by how their columns and how they displayed the art.
There were a lot of formats in cameras that sort of influenced the delivery, from 11x14 inch negatives to half-frame 35mm. I've worked with 5x7 inch film, something I don't miss, but my day-to-day work was with 220 (in both 6x7 and 6x6 formats) and 35mm film.
I lived in that world, and that world is full of function, that is how photography works instead of how pretty the picture looks, and I would urge everyone to make sure they understand the function more than the form; it's far more complex and will aid them in their technical mastery.
Elements of that technical world still exist. A simple example is a Facebook Cover art has a specific protocol such as:
which was shot to dimension for a cover differing from
which is a crop, both have been resized to meet NR requirements.
Color (or b&w) depth is significantly important for delivery, too, just as it was in printing. Type bleeding was something done then as now, but easier with current tools, but composition is important journeyman work in that area. Knowing what Pantone (and others) color libraries are and how to use them for that color delivery, especially for a small producer, could make a difference in getting a nice job.
Even today, cameras have fixed sensors, although some makers allow the user to select a ratio for his product - I suspect that will only become more profound.
However, printing services have only provided the same dimensions as they have for years.
Of course, we do have scissors.
What a great point, Mike. I suspect most of us on NRF do not have format restrictions. We can just make the frame any ratio we want. But, many of the shots I do today are intended to be made into small prints and given to the subjects. Thus 4"x6" or full 35mm frame dimensions. However, i will often crop instantly to 4 X 5 as this was what I shot a lot of and printed for clients in the old days. And, when one has a 4" x 5" view camera, this is what we shot when we wee after product shots. For others we did 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 with a crop of 4:5 in the viewfinder. Magazines also demanded tall photos, one column by ?inches.
Thus an important aspect of how we crop needs to be "What is it for and what does the client want."
Thanks for bringing this point up.
Yes, great point. Also HDTV aspect ratio and wide screen monitor aspect ratio.
Look at this image: It does not follow the rule of thirds or the golden ratio. In fact, there probably isn't any rule of composition in it. Just the random pattern made by stalks of grass. Does that make it a "mess" or it is of interest in a modern art sort of way?
Now here is the same image with the Lightroom ripple filter placed over it. Does that make it more "modern art" or does it just make it worse?
I realize modern art is a matter of taste and most photographers aren't keen on it because we like more accurate and realistic images.
This image is composed according to the "golden ratio" overlay in Elements 11. The vertical line which forms the "golden ratio," as explained above, bisects the blue and white Chinese porcelain pitcher in focus. I cannot do this in my mind's eyes as I shoot a photo so I shoot a bit wide and use the "golden ratio" overlay to crop to a "golden ratio."
D600, 135 f2 DC shot at f2.8, -0.3 exposure compensation, bounce flash.
I posted a similar image on PAD which does not follow the "golden ratio" or the "rule of thirds." I just composed it and cropped it according to what looked best to my eye. [I guess that would be the "rule of eye?"] You may want to compare the two images and consider yourself just how "golden" this supposedly common in nature ratio is. Maybe it exists a lot but that doesn't necessarily prove it is beautiful to look at.
I think Mike's words were a great summation and render much more talk on the singular subject of composition somewhat moot.
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