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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.
As I mentioned earlier, for most of the exercises in this course I want you to be shooting in black and white. Now if you've never worked in black and white before, that may sound like a rather odd choice. But when you're shooting black and white, you reduce the world to tone and line and form, and that can make composition much easier. To be honest, color can be hard, as it adds an entire extra layer of information to your image, both in terms of composition and overall feel. By removing color from the equation, we strip composition down to its most fundamental, most essential components.
You can learn everything you need to know about shooting and processing black and white images in my course Foundations of Photography: Black & White. Whether you have seen that course or not, let me reiterate a couple of essential black-and-white concepts. First, there is no objective relationship between any particular color and any particular shade of gray. In other words, a blue sky can be represented with any shade of gray, from dark to light. This is a big part of the creative power of black-and-white shooting.
Because you can determine which shade of gray a particular color is, you can play different tonal values against each other in a way that you can't do when you're shooting color. This opens up a whole new set of additional compositional options. You don't have to be able to imagine the world in black and white or see the scene you are shooting in your mind's eye in perfect grayscale. You simply need to learn how to recognize tonal relationships that will make good black-and-white images. When you start taking note of these things, you'll probably start seeing new types of compositional potential, as you recognize the ability to play one tone off of another.
Finally, if your camera has a special black-and-white mode or a black-and-white picture style or a black-and-white picture control, do not use it. The ability to control the conversion from color to grayscale is one of the most important aspects of black-and-white shooting. If you hand that control over to the camera, you're giving up one of your most important creative powers. So instead of using those features, shoot in color and do the conversion yourself in your image editor. There's nothing tricky about working in black and white; in fact, once you start seeing the composition potential and freedom of working in black and white, you might find that you want to start working that way far more often.
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