Don't lose your composure over composition...

Gortch

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#1
Once we get past the technicalities of exposure and the nuances of digital workflow, we are left standing face to face and toe to toe with the old enemy, composition. As someone from a design background, it's probably something that's more or less instinctive for me. But, I'm sure we all know people -- many of which are in evidence on here -- who, despite being technically very capable, are always going to struggle when it comes to composition.

Composition for many is like grappling with a slippery wet mackerel in the dark; especially those of you who are new to photography. The reason for that, primarily, is that there are no clearly defined rules. My personal view is this: you can't really learn composition but you can learn how to compose.

Here are 5 pieces of good advice for anyone who is struggling with composition. I hope some of you find them useful;

1) avoid relying too heavily on preconceived ideas like the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. These are structures you go to when all else fails. You'll find a lot of people who will try and convince you of the merits of these ideas, don't listen to them, they are simple and so will always be there if you need them. Move on from them, adapt, explore.

2) look at but don't read about art, particularly modern and abstract art. Try and look at the overarching balance created in works of art, the general shape of it, the way colour and light are dispersed, etc.

3) read about allegory in art, icons, and symbolism. It's interesting and opens your mind up to the language of artists.

4) screw your eyes up when composing and try and look at the overall shape and balance of the proposed scene through blurry eyes that simplify areas of light and dark and shape. I do this a lot. Dark sunglasses can be useful in helping to see the interplay of light and shade that your eyes would otherwise probably miss.

5) consider using a frame of some sort to hold out in front of you whilst composing. You might feel silly but it's worthwhile. Make sure your frame matches the ratio of image you are intending to capture, 4/3, etc.
 
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Samantha
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#2
Got it. Thanks. Not such a problem for me - not as much as FOCUS anyway.

Out of interest, is the text your own work or did you 'borrow' it? :thinking:
 
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#3
Great advice. But don't forget, horizons must be horizontal and verticals must be vertical. ;)
 
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Gortch

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#4
Just wanted to add, if you are making a frame as described above, my advice is to use heavy black card. You may be able to buy these. Also, try and make them so they block out a lot of the scene too. They needn't be too big either, I made some for someone recently that she could fit in her coat pocket.
 
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#5
Got it. Thanks. Not such a problem for me - not as much as FOCUS anyway.

Out of interest, is the text your own work or did you 'borrow' it? :thinking:
You won't find that advice anywhere else, I can promise you that.
 
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Gortch

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#7
Great advice. But don't forget, horizons must be horizontal and verticals must be vertical. ;)
Generally I would agree, I typically veer towards getting getting verticals right myself though, but with some photographs it's sometimes good to have dramatically squint horizons. Even in wildlife photography this can work -- I'm thinking of a photograph that moose Pierson (I think that's his name) created. I'll try and link to that.
 
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#8
You won't find that advice anywhere else, I can promise you that.
Maybe not all listed like that, but I'd guess most of the individual bits of advice appear elsewhere.
 

big soft moose

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#9
. Even in wildlife photography this can work -- I'm thinking of a photograph that moose Pierson (I think that's his name) created. I'll try and link to that.
Peterson

tell you what why don't you download it , stick it in your gallery and make out its your own ... you can always claim its an orphan work , even if you know who took it :rolleyes:
 
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#11
Maybe not all listed like that, but I'd guess most of the individual bits of advice appear elsewhere.
Well, ok, if you insist. I'm trying to b constructive here though. Is this the shape of things to come, needling and knit-picking? To tell the truth, I wouldn't know where to look for some of that advice, they are just things I sometimes do myself, things I picked up.
 

big soft moose

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#13
Lol - I always find blocking out most of what you are trying to photograph a really helpful technique :rolleyes:
 

big soft moose

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#14
Well, ok, if you insist. I'm trying to b constructive here though. .
tell you what show us some of your amazing photos which demonstrate these principals (try to make them your own , not random shots lifted off the net)
 
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#16
Lol - I always find blocking out most of what you are trying to photograph a really helpful technique :rolleyes:
So why are you stalking me. Something like 50 out of your last 50 comments have been directed at or in reference to me and things I have said.

Can I just point put that I am happily married, heterosexual. No offence intended to anyone, just clarifying.
 
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#17
Actually, I think I get it now. I need to screw up my eyes, block out what I want to photograph and not really worry about the focus because I can always use someone else's photograph....awards and glory, here I come! :D
 

big soft moose

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#18
Like I said, it ain't me you gotta worry about
 

big soft moose

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#19
So why are you stalking me. Something like 50 out of your last 50 comments have been directed at or in reference to me and things I have said.

Can I just point put that I am happily married, heterosexual. No offence intended to anyone, just clarifying.
That'll be because they've all been on one thread - serious stalking there

I call for custard proof - not of your sexuality (I really don't want proof of that) but that you actually use these rules to take photos ( Custard proof, for those unfamiliar with the concept, calls for a picture of one of his pictures and him holding a can or sachet of custard - this stops them just being pictures nicked off the net)
 
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big soft moose

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#20
Actually, I think I get it now. I need to screw up my eyes, block out what I want to photograph and not really worry about the focus because I can always use someone else's photograph....awards and glory, here I come! :D
Make sure you really screw your eyes up when you are looking at the copyright info - that way you can claim its an orphan work (so long as you're in Scotland) and then apparently its leegull to use it as though its your own
 
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#22
So, once I've blocked out A LOT of the scene.....????
Honestly, Sam, sometimes I wonder... I mean beyond the edge of your hole. Try and block out as much as possible so that you can concentrate on what is in your hole. It's hard to explain. Words fail me tonight.
 
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#23
Make sure you really screw your eyes up when you are looking at the copyright info - that way you can claim its an orphan work (so long as you're in Scotland) and then apparently its leegull to use it as though its your own
Don't you worry yourself about that. My other half is Scottish which gave me the absolute right to raid your photos and use them as my own. You can view them on www.ISCREWEDMYEYESUPANDLOOKWHATHAPPENED.com ;)
 

big soft moose

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#26
Seems reasonable all my pictures are crap anyway [/geraldratner]
 

simon ess

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#27
Honestly, Sam, sometimes I wonder... I mean beyond the edge of your hole. Try and block out as much as possible so that you can concentrate on what is in your hole. It's hard to explain. Words fail me tonight.
Right - I'm calling it. This is definitely a wind up.
 

big soft moose

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Actually, I think I get it now. I need to screw up my eyes, block out what I want to photograph and not really worry about the focus because I can always use someone else's photograph....awards and glory, here I come! :D
Pretty much... Holy Grail.
 

big soft moose

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#34
Three weeks from now, I will be photographing my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, photographing in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead! , Brothers, what we do in life... echoes in eternity
 

Cobra

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#36
are you sure??????? all my pictures look better when i block them out :D
Come on guys don't take the urine, he has a point.
I remember my art teacher saying years ago,
about one of my submission pieces,
that definitely looks better if you stand back a bit, and slightly squint (y)
I got the grades, so it must have been sound advice.
 
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Gortch

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#38
So, does anyone else have any useful tips they'd like to share or not? This is all very one way.

Sam, if you need help with that stuff by all means send me a private message. I know how difficult it can be to change when you've been doing the same thing for years. I'm happy to help.

Maybe you can send one of your pictures for me to have a look at. I'll give you an honest opinion.
 
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#39
On a second reading of that - I don't mean as in Gordy's just trying to wind everyone up - that's clear - I mean this whole persona, if you see what I mean.
Simon, I'm not sure if I ought to be flattered or concerned. Let's get a fresh start here ok, I'd value your insights.
 
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#40
Sam, if you need help with that stuff by all means send me a private message. I know how difficult it can be to change when you've been doing the same thing for years. I'm happy to help.
Thank you so much for the very kind offer, Gortch. While I truly appreciate it from the bottom of my very shallow heart, I can honestly say I am gaining all the education I need from you right here. :)
 
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