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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.
We've been talking a lot about framing, but we've been referring to framing as the process of framing your shot inside your viewfinder. There is another type of framing, and that's to frame your subject within a compositional element of some kind. We're doing that right now. I'm being framed by this car window because I am sitting here in this old car. Framing is another tool that you have to control the viewer's eye. With a good strong frame on the image, attention is brought more to the subject and the viewer's eye is prevented from wandering off the frame. Now, though the frame is here in front of me in this case, I am still the subject of the image, and there's still a background to the image.
The frame is serving simply to keep the viewer's eye under control. When framing is done well, you won't even notice it happening. Consider this shot of a windmill. The windmill is very plainly framed inside this larger, weird geometric shape. The framing object itself is not part of the windmill. It doesn't have to be, and it doesn't have to be a perfect square either. That's part of what makes this shot interesting is the frame itself is an interesting shape, an interesting compositional element. Sometimes frames can be created by tonal framing, having darkness around the edges. Sometimes frames can be created from different objects that you manage to compose in such a way that they patch together and form a frame.
One thing to be very careful of when you're framing though is depth of field, especially in a situation like this. We've got the car door in front, and I am a little bit further back, and we've got some background behind me. If I want the car door in focus, then we're talking about a deep depth-of- field situation. That means a smaller aperture, bigger F number, and paying attention to where we're focusing. I would probably want to put my focus point on the door so that the depth of field falls behind and puts me in focus. Now, you don't always want your frame in focus.
A soft-focus frame works well also, so of course that would be a wider aperture or smaller F number, and that's the kind of thing you can experiment with while you're shooting. Bracket your apertures and try soft and sharp frames. In this case, a sharp frame is probably better because we want to identify this as a car door and maybe tie it into the rest of this scene. Composition is very often just about ordering the world within your scene, controlling the viewer's eye, and a good strong frame is a nice way to do that.
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