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Composition can make an interesting subject bland or make an ordinary subject appear beautiful. In this course, photographer and author Ben Long explores the concepts of composition, from basics such as the rule of thirds to more advanced topics such as the way the eye travels through a photo.
The course addresses how the camera differs from the eye and introduces composition fundamentals, such as balance and point of view. Ben also examines the importance of geometry, light, and color in composition, and looks at how composition can be improved with a variety of post-production techniques. Interspersed throughout the course are workshop sessions that capture the creative energy of a group of photography students; shooting assignments and exercises; and analyses of the work of photographers Paul Taggart and Connie Imboden.
Your image editor is capable of dramatic retouchings of course, and very often when you're retouching you are mostly worried about making an edit that isn't noticeable. But you also want to think about the effect or impact on your composition of any retouching efforts that you might have. Take a look at this image. I have of course the tree backlit. It's built largely around this great shadow here. But there is a lot of balance happening here. I have got the tree and I have got this cart, or some kind of vehicle full of hay I think, and I have got this telephone pole over here.
I can't tell if the telephone pole is balancing this thing or not. It's--if it isn't just a distraction, because it's a big dark line. So I am going to take it out and to be honest, I have not actually tried this edit before making this video. So it will be interesting to see. I'm as much at a loss here as you are. The important thing is as I am doing this, I want to keep track of what it does to my composition. There are a lot of different ways of making this edit on an edit like this. The thing I am mostly going to be concerned about is the sky.
The sky is a very subtle gradient moving on a couple of different axes at the same time, so it could be very difficult to get this pole removed. I am going to start by selecting this layer here. This has my vignette on it. And I am going to try doing something that's only possible in Photoshop CS5 or later, and that's to use Content-Aware Fill. I am going to just select this part of the pole. We will see if this works. I am going to go up here to Edit and choose Fill.
I could also hit Shift+F5. And I am going to set Contents to Content-Aware. Hit OK and Photoshop is going to do some thinking. And boy, it did a pretty good job. What I want to do is assess. Yeah, this sky looks very good in here. There is a little bit of a blob here that I can probably fix when I take out the wire, but I think that's going to work. I am going to keep that edit and keep going here. I did just a part because I am figuring that this part against empty sky is going to be a different operation than this part against the branches. Those are two very different problems for the computer to solve. Shift+F5 and we'll see.
That did pretty well. I am going to have to decide what to do down here. I may just leave that there, because it will just look like a chopped-off post in this scene, and that might be completely believable. Let's see how Content- Aware Fill does with this bit. Shift+F5 to get the Fill dialog. It's still set on Content-Aware. Of course, it always remembers the last thing that I did, so I don't have to keep doing that. This one didn't work quite so well. I got some breaks in the branches here, but it got the sky all really nice in the background. So I think what I will do is keep that and then try and repair the break in the branches.
I have got my Clone tool here. I am going to make the brush smaller by using the left bracket key, and I am just going to do to some cloning in here. One thing about making adjustments to something that's kind of a fractally random texture like this is I can just cheat like crazy and for the most part no one is ever going to know. What I may do with some of these is just delete them. It's going to be difficult to get all of the stuff connected back up just perfectly.
So obviously I am looking for anything that's a conspicuous, obvious break. This is going to be tough. This twig here is going to--suddenly going to bend. And some of these fine details, I don't need to worry about them too much because when it's printed, if they are small enough, no one is going to notice. And I am going to just cheat that up there and so on and so forth. Now this could take a while to work out here. It's obvious to me that I could get all these reconnected and refilled and again, I think what I will do is just take these little bits and simply fill them away. Just get rid of them all together.
And I am using Content-Aware Fill for that so that the sky will look okay. And that's working pretty well. But using these different techniques, I could go through and clean up all these branches. Let's just assume that I am able to do that. Now let's go think about this bottom part of the post here. It actually looks okay chopped off. It's still kind of a heavy element. So let's zoom back out. So, now that's not nearly as noticeable. I need to get rid of the telephone line.
That's a pretty easy edit to make. And actually I am liking this post being the same height as this thing over here. I think there is still a little bit of a balance to be had here, but it's not as distracting as having that whole line. I am going to hide this layer that we were working on and you'll see the post come back. Obviously, I was wrong. This was not a vignette layer. It was just a duplicate. So this gives me a chance to do a before-and-after. Here is with the post. Here is without. If you are not clear on what's happening, it's that I've got two identical layers here. The background one has the post and the upper one doesn't.
So I can easily see a before-and-after. So, before I have got this kind of heavy graphic element. Well, I don't know I like it, but I do think this makes it a little more about the tree. It gives it a little more center weight. Once I get those telephone wires out of there, I think I am going to be in good shape. Again, the point here is to pay attention to composition as you make edits, if your edits are changing the content of your scene. Even if you are making tonal adjustments, you may be creating weight more in one place or another. So in addition to trying to make this look like a real edit by getting all the branches working and making sure the gradient in the sky is okay, what's going to be the critical decision here is how does the edit affect the composition? And in this case, I think getting rid of the post, or whittling it down to fence-post size, gives me a more balanced image than when it's sticking up there like that.
So again, as you're making alterations to your image, you want to be thinking about composition in just the same way that you would when you're shooting. Am I simplifying the image, am I creating balance? All of those issues come into play when I am retouching.
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