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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.
There are lots of specialized forms of photography. There is architectural photography and landscape and wildlife and macro photography, the list goes on and on. The good news is that each of those specialized forms of photography uses the same compositional building blocks and vocabulary that we're learning here. Each of those specialized forms of photography is a field of study that you can go very deeply into. But you will be doing it on top of the foundation that we've already covered. You'll be mixing and matching the same compositional ideas and adding some others to them, but you'll have a very strong foundation.
Those are all far beyond the scope of this course. You are going to have to pursue those fields of study on your own. But there are two specialized forms of photography that you will probably engage in pretty regularly, portrait photography and landscape photography. And I'd like to give you some basic tips on both of those. In this movie, we are going to talk about portrait photography. The most common portrait shooting mistake that I see, the kind of typical snapshot portrait mistake, has to do with headroom. Watch what happens if there's a bunch of extra headroom above me, just a bunch of empty space. How often have you seen a portrait like this, someone standing in front of a statue or something with all this extra room above them? It's just bad composition all the way around.
What's all this for? There is no room for this space up here. It's not a simple image. It's not focusing on me. It's not a very clear subject. It's just extra space. You can easily avoid this problem by doing that tracing your eyes around the edges of the frame thing before you take your shot. That will help you easily see if you've got extra space in your image. Another common problem also has to do with extra space and that has to do when you're dealing with someone who is looking out of the frame. When someone is looking out of the frame, maybe because they're talking to somebody else, or looking at something in the distance.
You have got extra space in your rectangular frame that you need to place somewhere, and it's best to put it in front of the person. This is called leading your subject. It's much easier for the viewer because as I am looking into the distance, they're going to have curiosity about what I'm looking at and it just makes more sense to have this space in front of them so the viewer can see more of what's before me. If we put the space behind me, then I have a much more claustrophobic image. I'm pressed up against the wall and there's all the space behind me that could convey weight. This particular one is not a hard and fast rule.
There might be times when you want that sense of weight on a subject to convey a sense of trouble or menace or something like that. But in general, you want to lead your subject with space in front of them. Let's talk about how you crop a portrait shoot. Generally, it's best to not crop at joints, but to crop between joints. Watch what happens if I am cropped at the wrists. When the frame is cropped so that my wrists are cut off, ooh! It's just kind of creepy. You can kind of feel it when you're looking at it. You can feel like oh my god! His hands have been cut off that's disgusting.
It's better to crop between joints, that means go between the wrists and the elbow, between the elbows and the shoulders, or if you are going for a wider shot between the waist and the knees or the knees and the ankles, just don't cut off actual joints. If you're going for a tighter portrait, know though that it is okay to crop a face. It's okay to cut off a forehead. This gives you a very nice intimate look. This is a much tighter, more gentle portrait. You don't have to show a person's whole face. You don't have to show a person's whole head. As you get more into your study of portrait photography, you might get more advanced croppings.
You may find that it is actually possible to shoot headless bodies in an interesting way, or eyeless bodies in an interesting way, but it takes a very skilled eye to pull that off without it being creepy. Know that if you are really wanting an intimate portrait, this is a good way to go. One last portrait tip, it's always better to use a slightly telephoto lens when you're shooting portraits. This will prevent facial distortion and generally be more flattering. So some basic composition tips, in the next movie, we are going to look at some basic landscape tips.
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