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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 been asking you to shoot in black and white so far throughout this course, obviously in this chapter we're talking about color. But the reason I've been asking you to shoot black and white is because color can be confusing sometimes, it's difficult to compose with color. Color creates an extra layer of information for the viewer, and sometimes that's just more information than you need. As I said earlier, when you strip color out, you get down to really basic composition. But take a look at this, right now I'm standing here against a background that is a peach color.
In black and white, the tone of the background and the tone of my skin are almost exactly the same, which means it's hard to get separation of me from the background. Tone is simply the brightness of a particular gray value. The brightness of my skin, the brightness of the back wall, they're about the same, and so I am kind of disappearing here into the wall. There are a couple of ways of dealing with this. In my black and white conversion, I can make sure that this peach color gets rendered maybe as a darker tone, but there's another option and that's to go to color.
Now, this doesn't really solve our problem, but I wanted you to see what I look like in the real world, in the real color world, up against this wall. I've got two problems here, I am still the same tone as the background. As we saw in Grayscale mode, tonal values are the same, the brightness of this particular peach color is the same as the brightness of my skin and so I am fading into the wall. When you throw in the fact that it's almost the same color as my skin, I really get camouflaged here, and I don't really stand out. I want to create some separation here.
Let's go back to black and white, and I want you to see what it looks like if we shoot a reverse angle, we're going to move the camera around here and shoot the opposite direction. Now I know you can't see this because we're in grayscale, but that wall behind me is green. However, notice I am still getting lost in it. That green again is the same tone as my skin tone, and so I am not seeing a lot of separation. So we've had a peach wall that I get lost in, and now we've got this green wall. Colors even if they have a different hue can still have the same tone, that is, the same brightness.
So I am facing the same problem that I had before. Now, I could of course tone the green in a way so that I stand out more. I could go to a darker green or a lighter green, but there's another option. If we go to color, we see now that even though I am the same tone, the difference in hue makes me stand out more. My reddish skin against the green wall makes for better separation than it did against the peach wall. So this is a great example of using color in a compositional sense. I am using color to separate a foreground from background.
in this case, it's a better choice than working with black and white. There are a lot of reasons you might choose to shoot color and work with color. For example, you might use color as an accent. You saw this earlier actually when we were shooting on the set in front of the computers and there was that nice thin strip of stuff. These are some examples of other times when color can make a nice accent. Now, sometimes when you're working with color, you need to really concentrate on your simplify step, because color does add this extra complexity, you want to make sure that you're working with a very simple composition, so that the extra color element doesn't make things too overwhelming for the viewer.
Color can have an emotional quality to it. Warmer colors can feel very different than bluer colors. So you might choose to build a composition with a color tone in mind, or a color quality in mind to get a particular emotional choice. For the most part, you will choose to work with color at the most basic level in the same way you work with simple shapes and geometry, a patch of color can effectively be a geometric shape in your image that you can compose with. Composing with color is a huge topic. You should be able to get started with it based on the simple compositional ideas that you've learned here.
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