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Foundations of Photography: Composition

Entry and exit


From:

Foundations of Photography: Composition

with Ben Long

Video: Entry and exit

If the purpose of composition is to order a scene so that it makes more sense to the viewer of your photo, then it follows that in the process of creating a composition, you are setting up elements that will guide the viewer's eye through your picture, and that's just what's happening in this scene that you are looking at right now. We've got this bannister down here, this diagonal line of peeled paint along the wall, they're all leading right into me, and I'm framed by this doorway. We're using a lot of elements here that are very carefully arranged to make sure that your eye enters the frame and is led directly to me.
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  1. 12m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. Using this course
      7m 27s
    3. What you need to know
      2m 50s
  2. 2m 47s
    1. What is composition?
      2m 1s
    2. All form, all the time
      46s
  3. 12m 34s
    1. How your camera is not like your eye
      2m 52s
    2. Looking vs. seeing
      2m 25s
    3. Vision and attention
      2m 13s
    4. Dynamic range
      1m 59s
    5. Seeing exercises
      3m 5s
  4. 36m 48s
    1. What all good compositions have
      1m 8s
    2. Subject and background
      3m 5s
    3. Balance
      7m 20s
    4. Point of view
      3m 22s
    5. Simplicity
      2m 59s
    6. Finding and capturing a good photo
      2m 11s
    7. Working the shot: Why one is never enough
      6m 41s
    8. Practicing
      3m 24s
    9. Why black and white?
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Practicing the fundamentals with points
      4m 17s
  5. 41m 48s
    1. Lines
      7m 7s
    2. Analyzing lines
      6m 35s
    3. Exploring a town
      4m 7s
    4. The Franklin Hotel
      2m 7s
    5. Shapes
      10m 13s
    6. Repetition: Arranging the elements
      1m 37s
    7. Rule of threes
      1m 36s
    8. Perspective
      1m 47s
    9. Symmetry
      1m 10s
    10. Focal length, camera position, and depth
      2m 27s
    11. Intersections
      1m 41s
    12. Exercise: Practicing fundamentals with geometry
      1m 21s
  6. 10m 38s
    1. Working a shot, revisited
      3m 21s
    2. Understanding the photographic impulse
      2m 58s
    3. Warming up
      2m 16s
    4. Exercise: Get your feet moving
      2m 3s
  7. 35m 7s
    1. Thirds: How rectangular frames are weighted
      2m 20s
    2. Tonal balance
      3m 52s
    3. Content balance
      1m 20s
    4. Squares: Weighting the corners
      2m 24s
    5. Composing people
      3m 42s
    6. Composing landscapes
      3m 53s
    7. Sometimes you can't get the shot
      1m 12s
    8. Practicing thirds with points and geometry
      1m 45s
    9. Practicing squares with points and geometry
      1m 12s
    10. Image analysis: The work of Steve Simon
      13m 27s
  8. 19m 6s
    1. It's the light
      1m 50s
    2. Direction of light
      8m 30s
    3. Texture
      2m 7s
    4. Shadows and negative space
      1m 19s
    5. Exposure concerns
      2m 44s
    6. Keeping one eye on post
      58s
    7. Light as subject
      1m 38s
  9. 18m 59s
    1. Introducing the workshop location and instructors
      1m 2s
    2. Assignment: Finding light
      5m 17s
    3. Shooting the light
      3m 14s
    4. Critiquing the light assignment
      9m 26s
  10. 22m 11s
    1. The basics of color
      1m 4s
    2. When to shoot color
      3m 56s
    3. How to shoot color
      2m 47s
    4. Practicing color composition
      1m 4s
    5. Image analysis: The work of Paul Taggart
      13m 20s
  11. 16m 48s
    1. Entry and exit
      5m 41s
    2. Framing
      2m 17s
    3. Examining the composition of this set
      2m 28s
    4. Narrative
      1m 55s
    5. When the scene doesn't fit in the frame
      3m 13s
    6. Guiding the viewer's eye
      1m 14s
  12. 13m 36s
    1. Assignment: Foreground and background
      3m 4s
    2. Shooting foreground and background relationships
      2m 19s
    3. Critiquing the foreground and background assignment
      8m 13s
  13. 34m 24s
    1. Planes
      5m 13s
    2. Controlling depth
      4m 54s
    3. Juxtaposition
      2m 58s
    4. Fear
      4m 3s
    5. Layers
      55s
    6. Image analysis: The work of Connie Imboden
      16m 21s
  14. 41m 21s
    1. Recomposing an image with the Crop tool
      7m 23s
    2. Resizing an image
      8m 9s
    3. Tone
      8m 54s
    4. Altering the perspective in Photoshop
      4m 38s
    5. Changing composition through retouching
      6m 16s
    6. Vignetting to drive attention
      6m 1s
  15. 10m 22s
    1. Workshop wrap-up and exhibition
      3m 13s
    2. Workshop students' final thoughts
      7m 9s
  16. 1m 0s
    1. Final thoughts
      1m 0s

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Foundations of Photography: Composition
5h 29m Intermediate Dec 22, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Looking versus seeing
  • Understanding when and why to use black and white
  • Analyzing lines
  • Arranging the elements into lines and shapes
  • Working with perspective and symmetry
  • Changing focal length, camera position, and depth
  • Dividing rectangular frames into thirds
  • Weighting the corners in square pictures
  • Composing photographs of people
  • Composing landscape photos
  • Working with light: direction, texture, and negative space
  • How to shoot color
  • Guiding the viewer’s eye
  • Controlling depth
  • Improving composition in post-production
Subjects:
Photography Photography Foundations
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Ben Long

Entry and exit

If the purpose of composition is to order a scene so that it makes more sense to the viewer of your photo, then it follows that in the process of creating a composition, you are setting up elements that will guide the viewer's eye through your picture, and that's just what's happening in this scene that you are looking at right now. We've got this bannister down here, this diagonal line of peeled paint along the wall, they're all leading right into me, and I'm framed by this doorway. We're using a lot of elements here that are very carefully arranged to make sure that your eye enters the frame and is led directly to me.

Geometry is one of the most prevalent ways that you will guide the viewer's eye as you're setting up your compositions. Here's a fairly textbook example of leading lines, and I think it should be pretty obvious. These big curved lines of these tire tracks, these good strong diagonal lines of these shadows, they are all leading light here into the trees, guiding our eye exactly into the middle of the image. I think it's important to point out that I did not see these trees and think "Wow! I really want to take a picture of those trees.

I'll walk around until I can find some leading lines." It was really the opposite. I saw the lines and thought boy, these shadows are really pretty and I like the way this curve cuts across these strong diagonal lines, but I need a subject for the image, and so I moved around until I found a place that the lines could go, something the lines could lead me to. So this was a case where I was very pointedly working with the lines in the fact that I knew they were going to guide the viewer's eye somewhere and I had it guide them directly into these two trees. Here the eye is being guided by a number of different things.

Primarily, we've got this strong line right through here and this dark shadow up in here that are helping to just contain our eye so it flows right along the lit-up fence. Now you might argue that, well, my eye is just going to the brightest spot, which is this white stuff, which is true, but these lines are serving to keep it centered, keep it focused, and keep it from wandering around the image. Meanwhile we've got this line here and this repeating group of lines here that just help our eye go right on out the other side of the frame.

There are lots of things that you will use to guide the viewer's eye. So again, we've got implied lines here, we've got tonality here and here. All of them are serving to keep the viewer's eye from getting lost. This one is a strange one, because it's really about the lines. They don't actually lead anywhere, but they do all work together. I have these strong lines here, which lead me right to these. Even if you miss the barbed wire at first, you certainly go right to the fence, which leads you back in here directly into the light or maybe over to this pole.

They don't actually end up anywhere. This is a kind of journey-is-the-reward kind of case, where the lines themselves give you something to do. Notice that with the lines and the simplicity of the image, even though there's not a really strong subject in this image, my eye still does not get lost; it knows where to go. As westerners, we tend to read images the same way we read text, that is, we go from left to right. This is a case though where the lines in the image are leading me more from right to left and back here into the mirror and back to the chair.

Again, simplicity is a big part of this image. My eye knows where to go partly because there are these strong lines to follow, but also because there's really not that much extraneous. In looking at the image now, I wish I'd gone in and moved this table out of the frame so that it was only the chair, because the chair does get lost a little bit in the table. And I could possibly have mitigated this a little bit by standing up, getting the camera higher, so that maybe there was more space between the top of the chair and this line on the table. That might have helped to make the chair stand out. It also possibly would have moved the chair down here a little bit so that it intersected more with this line.

I was thinking more of this as a graphic element that I wanted in the center of the frame for balancing reasons. Still, this is a case where I probably should have worked my shot a little more so that I wouldn't be wondering about these questions now. Here's a case where--actually, here is the case where I've got a focus problem. My camera focused back here. I needed deeper depth of field. You may think, didn't you notice this before you chose this image for the presentation? I did. I wanted to include some images that have some trouble so that you can see that very often you get into an image and only find out then if there's a technical problem or that you should have done something else, and learning to recognize those problems is a way to improve later.

Still, for the lesson of leading lines, this image still works. It's pretty obvious where the subject is. It's these kids with their cameras. But these strong lines here really help reinforce that right away I know that I am falling into the center of this image. Here's a case where the line is doing double duty. It is actually the subject of the image. It's what we really noticed. It's what caught my eye. But it's also serving a leading-line function. My eye just follows this wonderful wavy path right back here to this barn and this tree and this cloud, which worked together as a single graphical element.

But the line still does serve to guide my eye there. This is another case where leading lines combined with simplicity. There's nothing extra in the frame. There's nothing competing with the line. If the line was here, my eye might wander a little bit. It might not know where to go. So the line is constraining it. The simplicity is making the line more effective by guaranteeing that it's not competing with anything else. There are a lot of ways of controlling a viewer's attention. We're going to look at more of them in this course. But it's a good idea to really start paying attention to lines that lead the viewer's eye into and if need be, back out of, the frame.

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