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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.
Connie Imboden: Are we ready to start? Ben Long: We are ready to start. Connie: Okay, so does this fulfill the assignment? I love these tires. Okay so--but what's the relationship, the foreground-background relationship? Female Speaker: Just an obvious continuation of the form. Female Speaker 2: There's a repeating shape Could it be the rocks in the background? Connie: Yeah, I am wondering. I'm wondering if there is potential with this little guy up here and this guy here. I'm not sure.
Male Speaker: Or it could be like the tires are taking the form of a mountain range. Connie: Yeah. Yeah. Male Speaker: And then the mountain range in the background. Male Speaker 2: What if the light disappeared and the tires went into the background? Connie: Yeah, that could be interesting. That could actually be very interesting. Male Speaker 3: Another month of the draught and we could probably-- (laughter) Connie: Ah, I think that's much better. Male Speaker 4: And I think the black-and- white simplifies it so much more. Connie: It does, and this whole wonderful heap here that's just filling so much of the frame, and then this leading off.
You actually are leading off to this little point up here. Yeah, I think that's much more successful. Connie: I loved this. Whose image is this? Female Speaker 3: It's mine. Connie: Oh, this is great. I love it. So what you're doing here is absolutely-- everything that's in the photograph here is working in concert. Everything is bringing us right to this point, and you've got such a beautiful composition and arrangement of everything. It's simplified. The statement is simplified. It's not a simple statement, but all of the graphic information is bringing us right to that one point, and it's just beautiful. I love it.
Ben: I also think it's really good that these are here instead of going right out the corner the way the other two are. And all of these little details, like it being off center and so and so forth, those all count, and they all add up, and that, again, why you work your shot. You may not even be seeing this while you're there. A lot of times you don't know until afterwards, and that's why you want gobs of coverage. Connie: Okay and whose this is? Male Speaker 3: It's mine too. Connie: Okay, so I love this relationship here, but I hate this little piece of grass right there. Yeah, because these forms, especially this egg form, is just so beautiful.
And then the relationship to here. And again, I think I would have played with this relationship. Is this the best way to relate these two? Hopefully you did play with it, tried sticking it right in there, tried having this edge just touch the bottom edge of the circle in the background. So you're really playing with it and finding the most dynamic place. Ben: This is case where actually tracing your eye around the edge of the frame beforehand might have--I imagine you just didn't even see this when you Ben: were shooting. Male speaker 3: I didn't see it, I was concentrating on-- Ben Long: You are concentrating on the egg and the relationship, yeah.
And now you can look at it and go, how did I not see that or that or this or that? Tracing your eye around the edge will sometimes just open you up to oh my God, there is a twig in the middle of my image. Male Speaker 3: When you say trace the edge, are you're talking about like the egg down to the opening. Ben Long: Just after you compose the shot, just run, really trace your edge, look along every edge and see--you'd probably get to here and go, oh wait a minute, what's this? It's going to make you not focus your attention on your idea, but actually look at the frame and look at what's in the frame and look at what's in the frame. It's going to put you in a really objective place.
Connie: So the relationship is obviously here and here. Do we think this works? Male Speaker 4: Yeah, I do. Connie: I do too. It totally fulfills the assignment, and I like the way that you've positioned this form in the rectangle. You've filled it with this in a very dynamic way. Whose this is? Okay. This I think is just beautiful.
There is so much complexity going on here, and look at all the graphic lines. This could be utter chaos, but because of the way it's seen, it's very simple, it's easy to read, it's easy to get into, and really, in my mind, really, really works. You see how this line is reiterated here and here. You've got these lines coming down meeting this point here. So you've got everything, even the negative space up here, the sky, it's all working together. It's just beautifully organized.
Ben: This is a great example of repetition in that repetition doesn't always have to be really linear. It doesn't have to be just one shape after another in a perfect row. You've got these triangles all over the place that are repeating throughout the image, and it creates a rhythm. It's not linear, but your eye still picks up on it. (laughter) Connie: Isn't that wonderful? Male speaker 4: Yeah, this relates so well with the first one where they are just tight and they give you every bit of information, and there is nothing extraneous. There is just-- Connie: And it's such a magnificent metaphor. It truly, truly is. (laughter) I meant that in the most loving and supportive way, Bill.
But a visual metaphor is really when you're seeing two very disparate things and you're seeing the similarity between them. So it's a visual metaphor. Female speaker 4: Would it have been better to have turned his head enough to not see the ear? Ben: Ooh, I think the ear makes it. Male speaker 5: I actually tried that, and I really liked the ear in it. Female speaker 4: Uh huh. Connie: Okay, and whose image is this? Okay. So we've got obviously this wonderful relationship with the foreground stuff and the background, and we have the separation in the texture here versus the texture here, but otherwise we've got such a nice relationship.
This is such a continuation of the mountains. That's totally the assignment. Oh! Female speaker 5: This was the hair. I went to look at the hair. Male audience member: She went up to this guy and said, "I love your bald head. Would you put it in there for me?" (laughter) Female speaker 5: His wife was standing next to him and she said, "Everything will be fine!" (laughter) Ben: He had no say in the matter. (laughter) Connie: Okay, so do we need all of this to make this work? Connie: This is what it's about, right here.
The one that we looked at right before the egg, everything that was in that photograph was there for a purpose. It all worked together. And here we've got extraneous stuff. If you had come right in this or even up like that, I think I would have been-- So you could have had this crazy stuff up there. (laughter) Female speaker 5: This one I didn't like. I didn't really like this one, but I saw it and I said, "Oh I see something here. And I didn't like the composition. Female speaker 5: I thought it was too busy in the background.
Connie: I agree. Female speaker 5: I didn't know how to neutralize it. Connie: Yeah, that's a tough one. It may have been bringing these two together and having enough of a camera angle that you could either bring it against the sky or crop it so that you're against the darkness of the roof here. Ben: If you give up on showing the whole shape of both forms and maybe have him overlap the statue so we are seeing just one side mirroring on the other side over here. Female speaker 5: That's what I was trying to get. I wasn't sure how to get that.
Ben: Yeah, because then you can get in tighter and maybe lose some of the extra stuff. Connie: Okay, great job you guys! (applause) You especially did a good job on the light today. But that's the way it happens. It really is. That's the way it happens. And tomorrow I guarantee you'll be seeing spatial things. And these are all exercises. We said at the beginning we are not here to make beautiful photographs, though we've seen some really beautiful photographs.
The whole goal is to shake you up to see a little bit different, and I think it's so important to see what other people are doing, because we can learn from this whole group experience.
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