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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: Okay, so before we get started on critique, which I hate the word critique, but it's kind of the industry standard. But I want to talk a little bit about what a critique is. And I love this quote by Rilke the 19th century Czech poet: In artistic work one needs nothing so much as conscience; it is the sole standard. There is really no reason to be defensive or to lie, to pretend that it didn't happen. It's a little bit like lying to your therapist.
It doesn't do any good in the long run. Because what critique is about is to make you more aware so as you go out and photograph next time you will be more aware of some of the situations that we've talked about here. So the sole purpose of it is to make you stronger, better photographers. Ben: And isn't critique the French word for disembowelment? (laughter) That's how I always think of it. Connie: Well, that makes me feel so much better, if I had to make a critique. Okay, that was a good one. (laughs) Ben: Yeah, can we have that slide up next time? Connie: Yeah, quote by Ben Long.
So the way I like to do critiques is not to approach it so much by what the image means or the feelings that it evokes from it, that we can certainly get into that, but I like to approach it from a very graphic point of view. What works in the image and why, and what doesn't work and why. And where does your eye go in the image, and what's pulling you into that point and what's taking you away, what are the distracting moments. So that's the way I would like to go about this and everybody's free to talk.
Connie: Whose is this? Okay, where do your eyes go? (indecipherable speech) Right around here, yeah and that just keeps taking us down this way. I would love to see you get rid of this little piece right up there, because there's nothing really there. It's pulling us -- we are going in this direction. It's just pulling us up there. And it's nothing interesting.
It's just sort of a distraction. But I think this image is wonderful. I love the simplicity of it. I love how you have it coming in from one side, and it's like making use of the really dynamic corner to corner of the rectangle. Ben: One technical comment, the over exposed highlight on the right side. I say that's over exposed because there's no detail in there, look at the change in detail as it ramps back into the pipe. If you were shooting raw, that's the kind of detail that you can recover.
That's one of the advantages of shooting raw over JPEG and we haven't talked about raw at all, but one of the big advantages of raw is that you would be able to get detail back into that highlight and put some texture back in there, and make it just a little bit less of an eye magnet. Connie: Is there a way of relating this with these forms in a different way and that's all playing with camera angle, and I think it may not work, but it's interesting to play with. Ben: And that's another reason that we stress the working the shot thing. You never know -- oh look when I got little bit lower like what happened to the shadows and that kind of thing.
Connie: Who's is this? Female speaker: That one's mine. Connie: Okay, where do your eyes go? (indecipherable speech) I think they go -- yeah walk right up there and isn't that light just gorgeous? And there's no doubt this is light. This is totally light. And what she's done also is make these darker tones here really define the light here. So we're defining the highlight.
We get such a strong sense of what these highlights are about. Yeah, that's great. Ben: And I think that's a good example of how she is gone abstract enough that we don't get into a literal interpretation and so can more easily see the light. Connie: Who's is this? Male speaker: That's mine. Connie: Okay. Where do your eyes go, what do you see? Well, I think this is composed around this wall here. I would get rid of this little patch of light here, this is an interesting little element.
But this is really -- it's a nice photograph of a wall, a barn wall or wood wall, rather than the light falling on the wall. Oh this is beautiful, good, this is great, yeah that is just beautiful and compositionally again it's going right into the back -- everything is working in harmony, everything speaking to one another. And you've got a sense of space that works, but it's not obvious.
So there's something there that really keeps us engaged. It's nice. Male speaker: That's mine. Isn't that beautiful? The composition is nice, the way it's filling the frame, but it's not in the center of the frame so the balance is really working. The negative space is all working and the light right there. It's beautiful. Male speaker: Also mine.
Connie: Shadows, it's busy and it's about shadows. You could have gone in there and really examine this and looked right here to see if there's an interesting way that you could really frame the light in here, and use all of this stuff to frame the light. Do you know what I mean? So find the light in there. It would be the interesting thing. And that's again working it, getting in there and really working it.
Male speaker: Actually after I converted this image I realized that I have a couple others that would have worked. This was more about the shadow, and I thought, wait a minute this would be doing a lot of that. Connie: There is so much light going on in here. There's something about it that feels just a little bit awkward. I am trying to figure out what it is. Ben: There is a strange sense of depth or lack of depth in the image because the tones in the floor and the tones in the chair and the tones in the apple are the same.
It's hard to see any three-dimensionality to it. At the same time I like that, it makes it very painterly. It looks like a pencil drawing, which is cool, and yet I think that may be what's disorienting is, I don't have a strong sense of depth, but I like that pencil drawing quality. Connie: Yeah the confusion of the space here is interesting. But I think if it was truly about light, this point would have been finished right here. That feels like that's cut off.
Ben: This also, though you may not recognize it when you are standing there, this also would count as a pretty high dynamic range scene, which is why we've lost the highlight over there on that apple. That's a case where, we talked earlier about the histogram and you saw why it's a critical postproduction tool. Your camera will also show you in the camera histogram of any image that you've taken. So you could take -- when you're in a situation like this where you go wow, I've got a really bright highlight on a shiny object, I really don't want to over expose it. You could take the picture and look at the histogram on the back of the camera.
Anytime you see a big spike on the right side, very right side of the histogram that means over exposure. And a lot of cameras will also, in the thumbnail preview, when you are looking at the histogram, they'll flash any area in the image that's over exposed. So I would expect you would see this entire right side of this apple flashing black. At that point you could say, oh I need to underexpose this image. Your camera has an exposure compensation control that let's you say, you can just dial in a certain amount of over or under exposure. So you could say underexpose this by a stop and that would probably come -- you would probably get detail back in that highlight.
It would mean in postproduction that you are going to have to work to brighten the rest of the image and we can go over where those controls are later. Connie: Okay this could work. This really could work, taking the whites up quite a bit in here and even in the reflection and taking the rest of this down, and really get a sense of light. Light that's going through plastic and light that's hitting water is just beautiful. You've got these really specular highlights here that are just gorgeous. So I think you could make this work and I'll work on this with you if you want to make this really have that feeling of light.
Well, I am impressed. I think you guys did a really good job with this assignment. It's a hard assignment. It's kind of pushing you to see differently, so kudos.
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