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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.
Earlier I mentioned that the study of photography can be divided into two domains, artistry and craft. These two skills sets mix and combine to create photographic ability. All photos though begin with a single impulse, that moment where you have an idea that there's a photo to be had in a particular location. Sometimes it's very obvious that there is a good picture to be had in a particular location, say a lion has escaped from the zoo and its charging at you down Main Street. Now of course a normal person would think they need to runaway, but you're a photographer, so at that moment you feel a strong impulse towards an image.
In that case it's pretty easy to recognize that there's a good picture to be had, but it isn't always so easy. In the last chapter we talked about seeing and about how much your brain is involved in the visual process. Now I don't have any data to support this next idea, but in my experience the subconscious part of the brain is often a decent photographer. Sometimes it will identify a particular image and send me an impulse that says hey there's a good picture over there. I get this a lot when I'm walking around in my neighborhood, something in the corner of my eye will attract my attention.
Very often if I notice that and turn my full attention in that direction, I'll look and not see anything and will think never mind, and I will keep walking. But instead, if I trust that impulse and raise my camera and look through the viewfinder, very often I will see that there is an image to be had. I may not know all the details of it. It may need some composition skill applied to it, but there is usually a picture there. Learning to listen to and trust those impulses is a critical skill and it's really a skill, you have to practice it. Sometimes the impulses are very quiet and subtle.
It can take time to learn how those parts of your brain communicate with you. To help yourself pay more attention to your impulses, I would offer the following advice: When you're practicing, practice alone. You need your full concentration. You need to not be in a social mode where you feel responsible for other people. You need to not feel like you need to talk or answer questions, you need to be very present, listening to your own head. So also don't put on your iPod, again, you need to be present not listening to music. Music creates its own impulses and can put you into a different space than the one you're walking around through, after all, that's part of its appeal.
You may find both of these to be dead wrong for you and that's fine, I would just offer the advice that you should try it and see if it makes a difference. A lot of times in class we'll go out on a field trip and I'll see students walking around, and I'll watch some of them for a while, and they will come back over and they'll say I'm just not seeing any pictures. And at no time will I have seen them actually raise the camera and look through the viewfinder. It's critical that you do that. You may think, well if there is a good picture there I should be able to see it, yeah that's true, if it's a lion charging down the street at you, but at other times you need that crop. You need to see through that rectangle and then composition will start happening.
You'll start seeing things and you will realize that there is a photo there. So if you have even just the slightest hint of an impulse, look through your camera at it. Over time you will get better at picking up on even subtle impulses and that will lead you to see more images.
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