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Foundations of Photography: Composition
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Working a shot, revisited


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Foundations of Photography: Composition

with Ben Long

Video: Working a shot, revisited

I've come across these cool railroad cars. They're all stripped-down and skeletal for some reason. I have to imagine it had something to do with carrying grain around, because there's these big grain silos here. I've been trying to shoot them somehow. Now very often the way to work a shot is keep going in closer. As you go in closer, you simplify. You get down into details that are often very interesting and I've been trying that. I've been trying to work with the repeating textures of these shapes. I've been trying to work with the cool repetition of these cables, with the repetition of these lines, and yes, there's a lot of basic compositional stuff there that I can work with, but I'm just finding it kind of boring. It's too abstract.
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  1. 12m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. Using this course
      7m 27s
    3. What you need to know
      2m 50s
  2. 2m 47s
    1. What is composition?
      2m 1s
    2. All form, all the time
      46s
  3. 12m 34s
    1. How your camera is not like your eye
      2m 52s
    2. Looking vs. seeing
      2m 25s
    3. Vision and attention
      2m 13s
    4. Dynamic range
      1m 59s
    5. Seeing exercises
      3m 5s
  4. 36m 48s
    1. What all good compositions have
      1m 8s
    2. Subject and background
      3m 5s
    3. Balance
      7m 20s
    4. Point of view
      3m 22s
    5. Simplicity
      2m 59s
    6. Finding and capturing a good photo
      2m 11s
    7. Working the shot: Why one is never enough
      6m 41s
    8. Practicing
      3m 24s
    9. Why black and white?
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Practicing the fundamentals with points
      4m 17s
  5. 41m 48s
    1. Lines
      7m 7s
    2. Analyzing lines
      6m 35s
    3. Exploring a town
      4m 7s
    4. The Franklin Hotel
      2m 7s
    5. Shapes
      10m 13s
    6. Repetition: Arranging the elements
      1m 37s
    7. Rule of threes
      1m 36s
    8. Perspective
      1m 47s
    9. Symmetry
      1m 10s
    10. Focal length, camera position, and depth
      2m 27s
    11. Intersections
      1m 41s
    12. Exercise: Practicing fundamentals with geometry
      1m 21s
  6. 10m 38s
    1. Working a shot, revisited
      3m 21s
    2. Understanding the photographic impulse
      2m 58s
    3. Warming up
      2m 16s
    4. Exercise: Get your feet moving
      2m 3s
  7. 35m 7s
    1. Thirds: How rectangular frames are weighted
      2m 20s
    2. Tonal balance
      3m 52s
    3. Content balance
      1m 20s
    4. Squares: Weighting the corners
      2m 24s
    5. Composing people
      3m 42s
    6. Composing landscapes
      3m 53s
    7. Sometimes you can't get the shot
      1m 12s
    8. Practicing thirds with points and geometry
      1m 45s
    9. Practicing squares with points and geometry
      1m 12s
    10. Image analysis: The work of Steve Simon
      13m 27s
  8. 19m 6s
    1. It's the light
      1m 50s
    2. Direction of light
      8m 30s
    3. Texture
      2m 7s
    4. Shadows and negative space
      1m 19s
    5. Exposure concerns
      2m 44s
    6. Keeping one eye on post
      58s
    7. Light as subject
      1m 38s
  9. 18m 59s
    1. Introducing the workshop location and instructors
      1m 2s
    2. Assignment: Finding light
      5m 17s
    3. Shooting the light
      3m 14s
    4. Critiquing the light assignment
      9m 26s
  10. 22m 11s
    1. The basics of color
      1m 4s
    2. When to shoot color
      3m 56s
    3. How to shoot color
      2m 47s
    4. Practicing color composition
      1m 4s
    5. Image analysis: The work of Paul Taggart
      13m 20s
  11. 16m 48s
    1. Entry and exit
      5m 41s
    2. Framing
      2m 17s
    3. Examining the composition of this set
      2m 28s
    4. Narrative
      1m 55s
    5. When the scene doesn't fit in the frame
      3m 13s
    6. Guiding the viewer's eye
      1m 14s
  12. 13m 36s
    1. Assignment: Foreground and background
      3m 4s
    2. Shooting foreground and background relationships
      2m 19s
    3. Critiquing the foreground and background assignment
      8m 13s
  13. 34m 24s
    1. Planes
      5m 13s
    2. Controlling depth
      4m 54s
    3. Juxtaposition
      2m 58s
    4. Fear
      4m 3s
    5. Layers
      55s
    6. Image analysis: The work of Connie Imboden
      16m 21s
  14. 41m 21s
    1. Recomposing an image with the Crop tool
      7m 23s
    2. Resizing an image
      8m 9s
    3. Tone
      8m 54s
    4. Altering the perspective in Photoshop
      4m 38s
    5. Changing composition through retouching
      6m 16s
    6. Vignetting to drive attention
      6m 1s
  15. 10m 22s
    1. Workshop wrap-up and exhibition
      3m 13s
    2. Workshop students' final thoughts
      7m 9s
  16. 1m 0s
    1. Final thoughts
      1m 0s

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Foundations of Photography: Composition
5h 29m Intermediate Dec 22, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Looking versus seeing
  • Understanding when and why to use black and white
  • Analyzing lines
  • Arranging the elements into lines and shapes
  • Working with perspective and symmetry
  • Changing focal length, camera position, and depth
  • Dividing rectangular frames into thirds
  • Weighting the corners in square pictures
  • Composing photographs of people
  • Composing landscape photos
  • Working with light: direction, texture, and negative space
  • How to shoot color
  • Guiding the viewer’s eye
  • Controlling depth
  • Improving composition in post-production
Subjects:
Photography Photography Foundations
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Ben Long

Working a shot, revisited

I've come across these cool railroad cars. They're all stripped-down and skeletal for some reason. I have to imagine it had something to do with carrying grain around, because there's these big grain silos here. I've been trying to shoot them somehow. Now very often the way to work a shot is keep going in closer. As you go in closer, you simplify. You get down into details that are often very interesting and I've been trying that. I've been trying to work with the repeating textures of these shapes. I've been trying to work with the cool repetition of these cables, with the repetition of these lines, and yes, there's a lot of basic compositional stuff there that I can work with, but I'm just finding it kind of boring. It's too abstract.

You can't tell what this is if I get in too close. So then I thought, well, I need something recognizable to try and make this scene make a little more sense to the viewer. So I started getting down low, changing my point of view, thinking well, if I am working with the tracks, if I am working with the wheels, maybe then I can get something that's more interesting, and I am just not finding anything. Part of the problem is these are really long rectangular shapes and with the lens that I am working with, I've got wide-angle lenses here, it's a little harder to fit everything into frame.

If I had a more telephoto lens, I might be able to stand farther back and zoom in to compress some of the depth, and then I might be able to bring out more repetition, something like that. Or not, it may be that this is just a flawed idea, that this is a case where getting in closer is not the right idea. So I decided to give up on these trains and I started walking away, and when I did, I found this big pile of railroad ties over here. And I'm not especially interested in railroad ties, but these caught my eye because the sun was coming off the top of them, and there are these metal plates over here that were picking up the light.

And so I thought, all right, forget the train. I'll see if there's something interesting here. Very often finding a good shot is just about luck. It's also always about looking through the frame. I decided to try and frame a shot with the railroad ties and as soon as I did, I realized, oh, here's a way of capturing the train and capturing this whole scene and in the process trying to capture something of the feel of this part of town. I can use these railroad ties as an anchor for my composition and let the train and the grain silos fall in place behind it.

Very often, composition is simply about ordering the scene before you're ordering the world. I worked with a photographer one time named Bill Durrence who said, he thinks one of the reasons he likes photography so much is for that 1/100th of a second the shutter is closed, he is in complete control of the world. And that's kind of what composition is. It's your chance to put things in order so that the viewer has an easier time finding the way through the scene. So with these railroad ties as an anchor, I'm going to put them, and at this point.

I'm actually just following the rules. I'm putting them in my leftmost third. I'm making sure my focus and my depth of field are what I need to get some of what I want here in the background in focus, and now I am just working the shot and I'm going to keep doing that until I find something that I think works. So this is a case where getting in closer wasn't working, so I made a radical change and started getting far away. This is all part of a larger idea of really working a shot and seeing what you can find, and then applying your basic compositional rules to order the scene to try to capture this larger image.

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