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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.
Check out this cool car here. It's got grass growing around it. The light is fading on it. It's very atmospheric. I want to take a picture. Here we go. That's not much of a picture is it. Why? Well, because that's not just a picture of the car. What's the sky for? What's the road in here for? What's the fence in here for? I've got all this extra stuff. I need to simplify. Simplicity is one of the hallmarks of a good image. I'm going to go in closer here, and bang, I get this. Okay this is a simpler image, but I've got all those trees behind.
The trees don't serve any function, so I am going to move over here. Again, I am working very quickly because the sun is going down very fast, and it's not going to long much longer. Okay, here is this one and this one, I'm too far away again, and now I've got that telephone pole back there. That's no good. So I am going to come in closer, real close, and I want to try and hide that telephone pole behind the car. I really like this brick right in front, and the light's gotten really nice.
I am going to move around a few times here and get a couple of different shots, and this is what I've got. One of these is definitely the keeper image. Simplicity is essential to a good image because it makes it more obvious to the viewer exactly where their eyes should go. Painters have it easy. They, they've got to know how to draw a straight line and all that, but they start with a blank canvas and they add only the things that they want to the image. As photographers, we have it a little more complicated.
We start with the entire world, and we have to subtract from that scene the things that we don't want, in this case, the trees in the background, telephone poles, and so on and so forth. Now the difficulty about simplicity is, as we have discussed, very often your brain is able to focus your attention into the scene, so while I am framing this shot real wide, the camera may be capturing a wide image with all this extra stuff, but my brain is focusing attention on the car, so I don't see that I have actually got all this extra stuff around.
One of the easiest ways to get a simpler image is frame your shot and then trace your eye around the edge of the frame. This will immediately cue you into oh my gosh, I've got this sky in here, I have got this telephone pole that I didn't know was there, and so on and so forth. I am sure you notice that one of the first things I did after my initial shot was I went in closer. Closer is almost always a way to get your image more simple because it will crop a lot of things out of your scene. Simplicity is going to be one of the things that you kind of maybe not struggle with the most, but most often find yourself in post-production saying, well, if I have got a little simpler on this image, it would have worked better.
There are lots of ways that as photographers we simplify images. We can crop them differently. We can use depth of field effects to blur out the background. We can use tonal effects to highlight some things and not others. However you choose to do it, it's important to begin to practice and understand how to get your image more simple so that your subject is more pronounced.
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