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, and welcome to Foundations of Photography, Composition. How many times have you come back from shooting and looked at your images and thought, "Wow, this one really works," and, "This one really doesn't." Sometimes an image doesn't work because of a technical problem. It's blurry, or your hand's in front of the 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're going to cover in depth all of the fundamental building blocks of composition.

You're going to examine lots of compositional concepts that you can use no matter what kind of subject matter you're shooting. We're 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 unto itself and an essential tool for achieving good compositions, so we'll 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'll 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've 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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