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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 divide the teaching of photography into two large domains: craft and artistry. Craft is the technical skill required to effectively take pictures. This is basically all of the button pushing. Craft skills include your knowledge of exposure, your understanding of focal length and camera position, and your skill at post-production. Artistry meanwhile is that less concrete domain, which includes seeing, recognizing potential images, and of course composition.
You could also argue that there's a third kind of meta-domain which is the combination of craft and artistry, knowing how to use your craft skills to capture the image dictated by your artistic impulses. There is nothing magical about craft or artistry. They are simply skill sets that you can learn through study and practice. Some people might already have more of an innate understanding of certain artistic concepts and so seem to be naturals, but you can actually learn the same skill set that they have. This course assumes that you already have a pretty sturdy understanding of craft.
This means that you should know what I'm talking about when I mention over- and underexposure, depth of field, motion stopping, exposure compensation, reciprocity, dynamic range, and so on. Similarly, you should also already know what I mean when I refer to the speed of a lens, and you should understand how camera position and focal length affect the sense of space in a scene. If you are not clear on any of these subjects then you will want to check out my Foundations of Photography: Exposure course and lenses course.
Also, for the bulk of this course, we're going to be working in black and white. By removing color from the compositional equation, we will be able to concentrate simply on geometry and tone, and explore their interrelationships. You can learn about black and white in Foundations of Photography: Black and White. Camera-wise it doesn't really matter what you use for this course, as long as you're comfortable operating it. SLR, point-and-shoot, cameraphone, or even a film camera, they're all fine. Now I am going to be lynched by legions of film shooters who are going to be mad at me that I put that after cameraphone, but I am going to just leave it that way anyway.
When we get to some post-production questions, you might find that we discuss some camera features that you don't have on your camera, but for the composition lessons themselves, you will be fine with just about anything. If in the compositional lessons you find your camera is not able to do some of what we're managing to pull off, super shallow depth of field, for example, and these are things that you really want in your creative palette, then you might want to consider a camera or lens upgrade. But for now I recommend sticking with what you have if you're already comfortable with a specific piece of gear.
You don't have to be an absolute master of any these concepts; you just need to know what they mean and how to control the appropriate settings on your camera.
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