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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.
I've got a question for you. What is the subject of this image that you're looking at right now? This is not a trick question. I really want you to think about this. You may immediately think well, obviously you're the subject of that image. But am I really the subject of this image? If I'm the subject then what's the lodge there for? What are the mountains there for? Take a look at this image instead. If I'm the subject, this is a much better composition. Now I am plainly the subject and the lodge is in the background, compared to here where I'm competing with the lodge, or the lodge is competing with me.
If you want a picture of the lodge then you don't really need me standing here. This just looks kind of weird. In fact, you start getting a strange sense about this image that maybe I'm trying to imply that this is my lodge or something like that. If you want a picture of me then you don't really need the lodge there, because I'm smaller in the frame and the bulk of the frame is taken up by the lodge. Maybe you might be saying, well, what I want is a picture of you in front of the lodge, so I need everything. No, that's not necessarily true. In this shot you've got a nice portrait of me and you can still see the lodge in the background. Yes, you don't see the whole thing, but you can trust the viewer to understand that when they're seeing a piece of something they can interpret what it is. They can figure out that this is some kind of a hotel-like thing.
They can see that there's rocks in the background that constitute some kind of natural feature. It may be that you need to take multiple shots. You take the portrait of me and then you get a picture of the lodge separately. The important thing to understand here is that in this image the subject is not so clearly defined, it's up for grabs, whereas in this image the subject is very clearly defined. Every decision that you make as a photographer, from composition, to exposure, to the way you post-process your image, to your decision to shoot black and white or color, all of those contribute to knowing what the subject is in the image. All of those help define the subject, and every photo needs a very clearly defined subject and background.
For the rest of this course, most of what we're going to be doing is looking at ways of helping to organize a scene so that the subject is clearly defined and the background is clearly defined. All of these composition tips and suggestions that we're going to be making are largely about getting the viewer's eye to know what the subject of an image is. When you shoot a shot like this, the viewer's eye is left to wander around between all these potential subjects. Now one of the potential pitfalls here is that you have your own focused attention, so you may look at the scene and go, well no, it's plainly about you, that's what I'm seeing.
Right, that's what you're seeing, but you've got to pay attention to the entire frame. Again, this gets back to the fact that your camera's objective. It's capturing this whole scene. Your sense of vision, your attention is subjected. It focuses just on what you want. Take this same image and show it to someone else and they might get lost. So good composition is all about clearly defined subject and clearly defined background, and we're going to be hammering this a lot throughout the rest of this course.
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