Digital Photography Composition For Dummies

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Magezine Publishing Top. Login Join for Free. What is Plus Membership? Understand The Rule Of Thirds The most basic of all photography rules, the rule of thirds , is all about dividing your shot into nine equal sections by a set of vertical and horizontal lines. Use Frames Frames have various uses when it comes to composition. Simplify — Know Your Focus Having too much going on in your frame can mean the person who's looking at it just keeps searching for a point of focus and soon gets bored of looking when they can't find one.

Create Depth Having fore-, middle- and background detail will add depth to your image as well as draw the eye through the picture. Other articles you might find interesting What Is A 'Fast Lens'? Finally, once practiced and mastered - try forgetting everything you've learned and experiment in breaking the so called "rules". Many photographers belittle those who use smartphones and the various apps to create cliched images and then there's articles like this trying to get ILC photographers to use the same 'rules' and create even more cliches - ridiculous.

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Beginners Guide to Composition

Join For Free Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more. Reach 1. Get the latest photography news straight to your inbox by signing up to our newsletter. Directory Pages Search for all the latest photography gear and services in our dedicated photography directories. Calibrate your monitor so you can see 16 different shades :. Can't access your account? Join Today! Understanding design may help a photographer, but it is not a prerequisite to making a great photograph. The purpose of the "Positioning" thought was to emphasize that composition could be affected by more than where you stand and point the camera, but by other factors as well.

I will stand by my thought that parallels can be drawn between natural abilities in the arts and in athletics.

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It is an analogy that has worked well in my teaching of photography and, ironically, other sports. I strongly agree with the notion that some have an eye for composition and some do not. I have seen it in real life. Some of the best photographers I know have never stepped foot into a classroom or studied art.


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On the other hand, some of the not-so-good photographers that I know have academic degrees with "FA" in the initials. One of my MFA classmates shared, with the class, the very first photograph he ever took. The image was part of his thesis presentation. His grandmother handed him his camera when he was a toddler and he took a photograph of her.

It was one of the single greatest photographs I have ever had the pleasure of seeing—the composition was perfect, the focus and exposure were off, but it worked incredibly perfectly for that perfect image. Even though he was a great photographer, in getting to know his work, I felt that he had spent the next some years of his life trying to take a photograph as good as the very first one he ever took.

I doubt he ever will. Regardless, it is an interesting scenario to consider. Learning how to see requires absolutely zero study. If you are lucky, you were born with the ability to see and have preserved that gift. Learning how to see art is something that you could debate. Some people spend years and years of their life studying the meaning of art.

Digital Photography Composition For Dummies by Thomas Clark Free PDF eBook Download

Others, spend no time studying art, but simply enjoy it. Is there an advantage to one over the other? Understanding composition does require study, but creating compelling compositions does not require an understanding of the subject—just like catching a fly ball in the outfield does not require a comprehensive understanding of physics. The truth is that some artists are gifted. Many do not need to study to understand art. They just make great art. Natural ability exists, and it is definitely annoying—especially if you struggle to create compelling art. But, there are those who pour a ton of hard work into their art and get great results as well.

The thing that should be annoying to people is when they spend time and energy studying art, yet fail to create their own good art but still have a passionate desire to create art. It is those people I have empathy for. I will also stand by my position that natural ability is a gift and I am jealous of those who have it. My guess is that a lot of master artists enjoy their lucky moments as well. We all know that practice, study, and learning can help you get luckier more often than others, but I believe that chance, fate, and luck can all have their moments in photography, even for the master artist.

How many times have we "overthought" something? The fact that spell check does not underline "overthought" and "overthinking" means that those things definitely happen. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and a great photograph and knowledge can be dangerous.

Balancing Elements

I will stand by my baseball analogy. Obviously, sports and art are not the same, but the comparison works for me. It is not intended to be a one-to-one comparison. It is an analogy. In order to win the game of baseball, you need to measure which team has the most runs, not home runs. And, if you have ever played baseball for fun, you might not even be keeping score. In those cases, it really doesn't matter if you win or lose you won't know unless you keep score ; it is all about how much fun you have playing.

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You can also make art for fun. Or do we apply design and compositional study to the image after the work is complete and hypothesize that the photographer or painter must have consciously envisioned those digital cross-crossing red or black lines all over his or her image when they created it? My guess is they definitely didn't subject the image in the viewfinder to critical study—they went with what looked good to them and tried their hardest to capture the moment before it was gone.

Yes, the artist does not need calculators. Nor does the outfielder. And, not all artists need calipers, compasses, rulers, and T-squares. I own all of those, but don't use them for art. I won't debate the existence of the Force, but I can tell you that a lot of great images have been created without conscious thought. I think there are one or two famous photographs that were taken when a camera was dropped and the impact with the ground released the shutter. Obviously, credit goes to gravity, not the photographer, but gravity is a force without conscious thought.

When it comes to "overthinking" in photography, I find most people give photography just about the right amount of thought for them. If they didn't, photography would not be as popular and widespread as it is. If you don't like your images, you might want to think more about what you are creating.

If you like them and think too much, you might end up not being satisfied with your next images. I know that sometimes happens to me.


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Is this "totally blown out of proportion? My art education allows me to explain why a particular composition works and why another does not for me. Even that analysis is subjective. Something works for me, while something else does not. Yes, you can measure every composition by a master artist, but I will ask again, "Were those measurements conscious in the artist when they created the art? He might have with the Vitruvian Man, but I am guessing he didn't on many of his works. I don't think Leica makes a golden spiral focusing screen.

There is a huge difference between having the ability to create a good composition and formally explain composition. Luckily, for most of the artists out there, they are not required to explain their art or their compositions to academia, or to experts. When I mention "covertly" in composition, I am referring to the fact that sometimes leading lines, symmetry, etc.

Not every portrait needs to be taken on converging railroad tracks. I disagree that the elements around the subject should balance the subject. Sometimes, the artist will intentionally with unbalance an image in order to emphasize certain dynamism in the meaning of the image. Not every piece of art needs to be balanced. The path of the eye of the viewer is in no way predictable. Every viewer can enters and exit a piece of art in a different way.

It all depends on how your brain works. Not all of us read from left to right. Not all of us start viewing a photograph in the upper left corner. That is fact and has been proven by numerous studies.