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Foundations of Photography: Composition
Illustration by

Planes


From:

Foundations of Photography: Composition

with Ben Long

Video: Planes

Ben: We've found a lot of interesting things in the hallway. There is this cool peeling paint. There is stuff on the floor. There is a dead bat. There is also a lot of really cool geometry. We've got these receding lines that are creating this nice perspective, and here we have got this PVC pipe that's creating a line right across the hallway, and that works well against that window there with the big cross in it. But we have got something else here. We have got an electrical problem happening. We've got this wire coming across the hallway here. Now, it may be obvious to you as you have seen me walk forward here, but this wire and that piece of PVC pipe are at different distances from the camera.
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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

Planes

Ben: We've found a lot of interesting things in the hallway. There is this cool peeling paint. There is stuff on the floor. There is a dead bat. There is also a lot of really cool geometry. We've got these receding lines that are creating this nice perspective, and here we have got this PVC pipe that's creating a line right across the hallway, and that works well against that window there with the big cross in it. But we have got something else here. We have got an electrical problem happening. We've got this wire coming across the hallway here. Now, it may be obvious to you as you have seen me walk forward here, but this wire and that piece of PVC pipe are at different distances from the camera.

They sit on different planes. They're in different layers. And because they're at different distances from camera, they can be mixed and matched and combined in different ways depending on how the camera moves around, and you can see that happening right now. As the camera is moving, you're finding very different relationships in them. They're creating different shapes, not just with each other, but in terms of how they relate to the cross in the window back there. So by choosing a camera position of a particular kind, I can get a very different geometric shape here.

This is something to look for as you're out moving around. When you see objects at different depths, understand that by the time the photo is compressed down to a two-dimensional object, you're going to have different shapes depending on where you put the camera. This is a powerful compositional tool. Let's take a look at some of the other examples. We are going to look now at three sample images shot by students of the 2011 Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. So these were teenagers. These are 14 to 18 year olds. We gave them an assignment to go out and shoot images, very much like the ones I was just discussing, where there is a relationship between foreground elements and background elements.

We didn't specifically say color or black and white. So this first image that we are looking at is in color. And if you haven't figured it out already, this is a reflector on the guardrail alongside a highway. And here we can see the guardrail extending into the distance. This was shot by a student named Ethan Yates. And what Ethan has done here is really pay attention to his full field of view and I don't mean full in terms of left and right, but depth. As we move through the world, it's very easy for us to focus our attention only on the plane where our subject lies.

We tend to focus on just this one plane and ignore everything in the background, but photos of course are two-dimensional. They get meshed flat and when they're meshed flat like this, there is a direct relationship between this circle and this line and it's difficult to shift your focus away from simply seeing on the plane where your subject is to seeing the relationship of objects in three dimensional space. And Ethan has done a great job of this right here. If he had shifted his position in different ways, the image wouldn't have worked so well.

If he had gotten down lower, then this circle would be here up amongst this vegetation in the background. What I like about his positioning here is the circle is serving to tie this graphic element into this graphic element. Our eye leads along this line. It either gets led into the scene or we see this first and find our way back out of the scene. Very nicely composed image. This is a shot by Marie Fleur and great visualization of foreground and background.

She has obviously mirrored the shape of the mountain in the curved shape of this water fountain. And again, it would be very easy to be standing at this scene, looking at the water fountain, and seeing only what lies on its plane and simply not recognizing that right there in the background is a repeating pattern-- another line that mirrors the line of the water. Now for this to work and be set up properly she has to position her camera very precisely. If she was standing up higher then the water would be down lower. If she was standing down lower then the water might intersect with the line of the mountain.

Those might be interesting shots too. But to get this one where we've really got the repetition of these two lines, two lines that sit hundreds of yards apart from each other, to get that representation or that relationship going, she had to position her camera very carefully. Amber Griffith took this picture. I really, really like the mirrored shapes here, and this one is inverted. The fish is in upside-down version of the mountains, and the whole thing creates an overall sense of circle right here in the middle. And she has done a great job with her toning and adjustments of this image.

The light here on the dead fish is beautiful. Really excellent work. And again, she is seeing not just on the plane where her subject lies; she is seeing objects in the distance as graphic elements she can work with, and she is positioning her camera and her body such that they have a very particular relationship. This is a difficult thing to learn to pay attention to, but it's a great exercise. And learning to try to see the three dimensional world in more flat, straight, graphical representation is really going to open your eyes up to lots of new subject matter.

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