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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.
So you're out shooting. It's going well. Your eyes are really seeing things, and lot of things are capturing your attention, and maybe it goes something like this. You think wow! Look at the thing over there. And you turn, you point your camera and you take a picture. And you do that for the rest of the day. And when you come home, all of the images you will have shot will have been taken from about this level, and usually looking either down or maybe a little up. In other words, they'll all have exactly the same point of view. Now if you think about it, the odds that when you see something interesting and that you are absolutely at the perfect height to shoot that particular thing from that location, the odds are that are pretty slim.
Point of view is a critical compositional decision that you really need to be actively thinking about when you're shooting. If you walk through the world just shooting like this all the time, you are going to have fairly uniform somewhat-boring shots. But point of view does more than just allow you to create something that looks like it was shot by a shorter person or a taller person; point of view will often allow you to find subject matter that would otherwise be boring or mundane. Consider this weed here. It would have been very easy to just walk past and then not notice it, but by changing my point of view and going for a more dramatic point of view, or more extreme point of view, I was able to turn this into an interesting composition.
Point of view is how you can take otherwise mundane subject matter and make it more interesting. It's how you can take even dramatic subject matter and cast it in a light that has a little more emotional impact. The emotional content of your point of view is something that you really need to pay attention to. Consider this: by choosing a point of view below my location, I become higher status. I become more menacing, especially if I am making faces like this. This is an emotional choice that you make in setting your camera in a location like this.
Let's look at the opposite choice. Conversely, if we put the camera up high and look down, we get this. I'm smaller here and lower status. It's a very different emotional content to the image. Note that there's nothing wrong with the composition. We have a nice and balanced composition here. It's just a choice was made to take this particular point of view, and that's imparting a very different feel to the image. Now, this is not a rule here. I am not saying never take your camera up high and shoot down on someone; in fact, later in the course you are going to see us playing with vertical camera position as we build up compositions for a lot of these shots. That's fine.
The important thing is just to remember that there is a different feeling, depending on your point of view, in a situation like this. One of the interesting ways to work with point of view is to simply give up on looking through the viewfinder. If you are say in a crowd wanting to shoot over people's heads, don't worry about not being tall enough; just hold your camera up and do the Hail-Mary shot over everybody's head. Sometimes it can be interesting to get your camera down on the ground and just shoot without looking through the viewfinder. You've got to think maybe about how you are framing, where the camera is aimed, but you can rely on your camera's autofocus and other auto features to take care of the lot of the hard work for you.
Since it's digital, it is not going to cost you anything, so this is an easy way, in a lot of different circumstances, to experiment with point of view. And you are going to see a lot of images that I've taken around here during this course where I wasn't looking to the viewfinder; I was just getting into interesting angles. So, don't forget point of view. When you're shooting, don't just shoot everything at eye level; think about where the more interesting perspective might be.
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