Foundations of Photography: Composition

with Ben Long
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Foundations of Photography: Composition
Video duration: 0s 5h 29m Intermediate


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


Hi, my name is Ben Long. Welcome to Foundations of Photography: Composition. How many times have you come back from shooting and looked at our images and thought wow, this one really works and ooh, this one really doesn't. Sometimes an image doesn't work because of a technical problem-- it's blurry or your hands are in front of a lens or something-- but more often an image works because of how it's composed. Much more than technical understanding or ability, composition is what separates the good photographers from the not-so- good photographers and in this class we are going to cover, in depth, all the fundamental building blocks of composition.

You are going to examine lots of compositional concepts that you can use, no matter what kind subject matter you are shooting. We are going to explore the process of seeing, and look at some techniques to get your visual sense working in a new way. Light is the beginning of all photos. Without good light, it's hard to get good results. But light can also be a subject onto itself and an essential tool for achieving good compositions, so we will be exploring light in detail. Improving your composition skills is not just a process of learning how to compose; you also need a vocabulary for discussing composition and an understanding of how to look at your own images with a critical eye.

So to that end, we will be performing lots of compositional analysis of my images, as well as the work of three other photographers and an entire class full of students. And finally we're going to spend time talking about shooting practices, what you need to do in the field to get access to the subject matter you want and how to improve your chances of coming back with a good shot. We have a got a lot of material to cover and a lot of ideas to explore, so come with me now as we dive into the fundamentals of composition.

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