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Author Topic: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"  (Read 8398 times)

welly

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"Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« on: August 08, 2018, 11:02:17 am »

Interesting blog post on the technical aspects of composition.

https://antongorlin.com/blog/photography-composition-definitive-guide/
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Kevin Gallagher

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 11:27:01 am »

 Wow, very well written and IMHO, worth bookmarking. Thanks Welly and welcome to LULA!!
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Kevin In CT
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RSL

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 11:29:20 am »

Wow, all you need do is to take this article with you on your phone. Then, when you see people standing against the sea with a sailing ship in the background you can whip out your phone and consult it for the proper way to compose the shot. And if you blow it and haven't finished studying before the people walk away or the ship sinks, you may be able to "Improve your composition in editing" (cropping) using Photoshop's crop tool, taking into account the "rule of thirds," etc.

Welly, I don't mean to be too snide with my remarks, but I'd suggest a better way to learn composition is to study the work of the world's great artists, including especially the work of the great photographers. I'd also suggest that if you failed to compose properly on the camera, in most cases you're screwed. If you have to dork around in Photoshop to re-compose a shot the results usually show that you did that.

I do like your three trees, though.

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 12:08:51 pm »

An excellent and quite comprehensive primer on composition. Thanks for the link.

Rob C

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2018, 07:58:29 am »

Welcome to LuLa, welly.

I opened the link and almost instantly closed it: the self-promotion of the writer was just too hard to stay with, which I would have had to do, in order to learn what to do when God has been negligent in providing the right genes.

Personally, I would chuck all such guides onto a bonfire of collected photography-writer vanities. As Russ suggests, you see what it's all about by looking at monographs, surviving magazines and some selected websites. Find a shooter whose style you admire, that pulls you close, then just write his name into Google adding the magical word "images" though, living in Spain, Google likes me to type imagenes instead, and who am I to argue with Google?

amolitor

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2018, 10:21:03 am »

The desire to turn composition into an algorithm, a set of rules, is positively a plague in photography.

Good work on noting that Dynamic Symmetry is a bunch of crap. Now move on to Leading Lines and the Rule of Thirds, which are also crap. There is actual research here, Arnheim's book on Art and Visual Perception is pretty good, and suggests something like the Rule of Thirds but also makes clear that it's not that simple.

Just look. You see things pretty much the same way other people do. If it looks balanced, it is. If it looks off kilter, it is.

The key is not in knowing where to place the masses to create a sensation of tension (or whatever) but rather to know that it is possible to create a sensation of tension. This is what you get from looking at other people's pictures, as Russ suggests. You see, you react, you expand your ideas of what reactions are possible. Maybe you pick up a few hints about how to do it.

Rules of composition are a distraction. You lose the scene in front of the lens, because all you see is the leading line.

Just look, and be aware.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2018, 10:23:47 am »

<shakes head in disbelief>

RSL

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 10:48:48 am »

<Nods head. Puts thumb up.>

amolitor

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2018, 10:50:22 am »

<sits, dumbly sipping his coffee>
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hokuahi

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2018, 10:59:28 am »

Say what??

I don't know... On first perusal it seems pretty interesting..

Worth a re-read for sure.
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amolitor

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2018, 11:01:34 am »

It does seem a little tongue in cheek in parts, which is nice to see.

Tip: There are two flow charts near the end. The first one isn't very useful. The second one is spot on.
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RSL

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2018, 11:02:21 am »

Be sure to put it on your cellphone. That way it'll be right there where you can consult it when you're ready to frame your next picture.

amolitor

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2018, 11:06:01 am »

Anton could make an app for your phone that talks you through it. A sultry voice whispering in your ear "does it align with a rule? does it align with a rule?"
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2018, 12:25:57 pm »

About rules... reminds me of a discussion we had a couple of years ago on this forum, where a member known as "popnfresh" said the following:

"... People like to say that rules are meant to be broken, but I say that rules are meant to keep the clueless from looking like idiots. Only break a rule when you're good enough to know what you're doing."

KLaban

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2018, 12:45:16 pm »

The desire to turn composition into an algorithm, a set of rules, is positively a plague in photography.

Good work on noting that Dynamic Symmetry is a bunch of crap. Now move on to Leading Lines and the Rule of Thirds, which are also crap. There is actual research here, Arnheim's book on Art and Visual Perception is pretty good, and suggests something like the Rule of Thirds but also makes clear that it's not that simple.

Just look. You see things pretty much the same way other people do. If it looks balanced, it is. If it looks off kilter, it is.

The key is not in knowing where to place the masses to create a sensation of tension (or whatever) but rather to know that it is possible to create a sensation of tension. This is what you get from looking at other people's pictures, as Russ suggests. You see, you react, you expand your ideas of what reactions are possible. Maybe you pick up a few hints about how to do it.

Rules of composition are a distraction. You lose the scene in front of the lens, because all you see is the leading line.

Just look, and be aware.

I'd struggle to think of anyone I really admire who followed the rules.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2018, 02:27:24 pm »

Paraphrasing from memory something that is attributed to various jazz musicians and in various forms... I remember this one as attributed to Miles Davis:

"First, learn everything there is to learn about jazz... then forget it all and play until you are dizzy."

It seems to me that some of you guys want to skip the first part and jump straight to the forgetting part. Or you are so far from the first part, years-wise, that you forgot it ever existed.

KLaban

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2018, 02:42:30 pm »

Paraphrasing from memory something that is attributed to various jazz musicians and in various forms... I remember this one as attributed to Miles Davis:

"First, learn everything there is to learn about jazz... then forget it all and play until you are dizzy."

It seems to me that some of you guys want to skip the first part and jump straight to the forgetting part. Or you are so far from the first part, years-wise, that you forgot it ever existed.

I believe some of us put in many years learning on the job rather than from primers.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2018, 02:51:47 pm »

I believe some of us put in many years learning on the job rather than from primers.

You never went to any art school? You just started painting?

KLaban

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2018, 03:01:57 pm »

You never went to any art school? You just started painting?

You think we learnt by rote, from primers or were encouraged to follow rules?

Far from it, we worked hard and were to encouraged to find our own way.
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amolitor

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Re: "Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide"
« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2018, 03:49:57 pm »

There's a bunch of different things that tend to get conflated here, largely by photographers who because they tend to lean a bit technophile are charmed by the idea of algorithmic approaches to what are essentially emotional problems.

1. How to people perceive things, especially pictures of things?
2. What properties do pictures have?
3. What should I do when I take a picture?

The photographer in search of rules is interested, of course, in #3. People seeking to provide such rules to sell their book or promote their web site, gleefully gather up items from #1 and #2 and file the serial numbers off, presenting them as #3. Often, as in the case of Leading Lines and the Rule of Thirds, they haven't even got them from category 1, they're just made up entirely, but presented as if they were fundamental laws of perception.

Now, knowing how people perceive things, and understanding properties of existing good pictures, these are great ideas. You don't need to be able to apply words to any of it, though. You perceive things much the same way others do, so you can knock off #1 simply by paying attention. #2 requires that you actually look at pictures, and pay rather more attention. It doesn't hurt, here, to have some people point things out about pictures for you. Some stuff is there but it pretty hard to consciously notice unless you have someone pointing things out.

Turning all this material into a #3, well, you cannot algorithmize it. You can't just learn the properties of flour, water, salt, leavenings, sweeteners, and be a pastry chef. If you work away on existing pastries, make a bunch of pies and have people point out the properties of a good crust, and so on, you can learn to make a passable copy of existing pastries.

But there's no algorithm that's going to get you to a new pastry on your own. To get from copying to creating, you're just going to have to try some stuff out, throw a lot of stuff out, and exercise taste and judgement based on experience, and even then sometimes you just aren't the guy. You haven't got it.

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