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Thread: Composition

  1. #1
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Composition

    So we are done working with DOF (for now) at school, we are on to composition.. we have two class photoshoots this weekend.. Does anyone have any little tips or tricks I should know?? Thanks!

  2. #2
    ktuli's Avatar
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    Bill S

    Re: Composition

    Wow! That's an almost endless list of things... and it often depends on what you are shooting.

    I'll get things started with the one that everyone knows...

    Rule of Thirds. Basically divide your frame into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Place important elements on those dividing lines and specifically on the intersections of those lines.

    Open the flood gates.

    - Bill

  3. #3
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    Thanks Bill, I knew I could count on the forum to give me some good tips.

  4. #4
    jiro's Avatar
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    Willie or Jiro is fine by me.

    Re: Composition

    A small guide on how to choose your main subject when composing a shot and how the eye reads an image:

    Composition

    An excerpt from the wonderful book "Vision and Voice - Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom" by David duChemin.

  5. #5
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    Thanks that's awesome, going to write that in my notebook too.. I am sure this thread is going to be really helpful to all us new photographers just starting out.

  6. #6
    rob marshall

    Re: Composition

    Shannon

    The first thing I do with any shot is put the camera down. I just take a good look at what is in the scene. It's amazing how you notice things that you need to exclude that somehow you don't see in the viewfinder - how does that happen? It also gives you time to think about what you are looking at, rather than worrying about what settings you should be using on the camera.

    I have a small plastic cut-out rectangle, the aperture of which is the same size ratio as the sensor. I can look through it to 'view' the scene before shooting. It's much more easy to get a proper view than using the viewfinder. On my Panasonic G1 I can view the scene on the back-screen before shooting (like a compact camera) and I can also switch on a rule of thirds grid on the screen which is great for composing. That also works in the viewfinder.Pity that normal DSLRs can't do that.

  7. #7
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    One of my teachers has a frame she looks in before she takes the picture too. I wonder if I could make one. I could cut one out of a plastic milk jug or something.. Do you know what dimensions your's is ?? I think that is an excellent Idea, especially since we are suppose to be practicing using our tri-pods which I discovered I don't like using .. it's so much work, That being said though, I did notice the pictures were more clear and crisp. Thanks for your help Rob.

  8. #8

    Re: Composition

    Trust your eyes and your gut. The human brain spends most of its time assembling scenes...we should not need mathematics to tell us what is right. The rule of thirds is an interpretation of generic perception so unless our brains are wired differently we should know instinctively what is 'right' Think about receptor triggers

    Threat
    Potential threat
    Sexuality
    Humour
    Sadness
    Attraction
    Revulsion...etc

    Where do they sit in the scene, which components do you wish to accent, which components to depress.

    And it is not accidental that you have been taught DoF before composition. Remember you must compose in 3 dimensions not just 2

  9. #9
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    Thanks Steve all excellent points, I have trouble composing things to look like they are still 3 D that probably (I am hoping) comes with practice.

  10. #10
    rob marshall

    Re: Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Shambhala View Post
    One of my teachers has a frame she looks in before she takes the picture too. I wonder if I could make one. I could cut one out of a plastic milk jug or something.. Do you know what dimensions your's is ?? I think that is an excellent Idea, especially since we are suppose to be practicing using our tri-pods which I discovered I don't like using .. it's so much work, That being said though, I did notice the pictures were more clear and crisp. Thanks for your help Rob.
    Just get a small piece of black thick card (art board is good) and cut a rectangle from the centre (use a sharp modelling knife, but watch your fingers). A crop factor sensor is 22x15mm, so make it about three times that size - say 66x45mm to keep the same aspect ratio. When using it, not only move it from side to side, but also back and forth to simulate zooming the lens. If you are with someone else, ask their opinion.

  11. #11
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    Thanks!! I am going to try that ^^^

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    Re: Composition

    Although , composition is an element of photography I struggle with (along with choosing a subject, DOF, exposure, fstop ,aperture, lighting and choice of lens; I am getting quite good at remembering to charge my battery) I will add something that drives me mental. I shoot a lot from low angles in grassy or brushy environments. I have to check there is not some leaf, twig or clump of grass intruding in from the edge and grotesquely out of focus. I suspect the human eye is adapted to see past these things to focus on the main item of interest (for instance a tiger behind some bushes) when walking about. I cannot count the number of images I have with some tiny twig sticking half way into the image and blurred almost out but present enough to destroy the image utterly.

    On the same vein, my camera has 90% of the image visible through the view finder. Become comfortable with whatever crop factor your view finder has and account for it. I have a lot of images where I spent time balancing and composing a closeup of some old barn, only to get home and find some washed out leaf in one corner where cropping would destroy the intent I had when composing in camera.

    Probably not a common problem, I just have this flattened spot on my forehead from slamming it on the table when checking my pictures when I get home and process the days crop of images.

  13. #13
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    Re: Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    Although , composition is an element of photography I struggle with (along with choosing a subject, DOF, exposure, fstop ,aperture, lighting and choice of lens; I am getting quite good at remembering to charge my battery) I will add something that drives me mental. I shoot a lot from low angles in grassy or brushy environments. I have to check there is not some leaf, twig or clump of grass intruding in from the edge and grotesquely out of focus. I suspect the human eye is adapted to see past these things to focus on the main item of interest (for instance a tiger behind some bushes) when walking about. I cannot count the number of images I have with some tiny twig sticking half way into the image and blurred almost out but present enough to destroy the image utterly.

    On the same vein, my camera has 90% of the image visible through the view finder. Become comfortable with whatever crop factor your view finder has and account for it. I have a lot of images where I spent time balancing and composing a closeup of some old barn, only to get home and find some washed out leaf in one corner where cropping would destroy the intent I had when composing in camera.

    Probably not a common problem, I just have this flattened spot on my forehead from slamming it on the table when checking my pictures when I get home and process the days crop of images.
    I do not know how common it is, but I suffer from this chronically And for me the selective attitude of the brain not only messes up my photos out of the camera but also during post processing. I might take a perfectly fine photo and overexpose/underexpose parts of it because I would unconsciously focus on the main subject, and ignore the rest.

    That said, Shannon you seem to have an eye for composition. So, you should do well trusting your eye and gut as suggested by Steve.

  14. #14
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    Re: Composition

    That said, Shannon you seem to have an eye for composition. So, you should do well trusting your eye and gut as suggested by Steve.

    I agree to with the above statement.you have a good sense of composition from what i have seen in some of photo's and you should go with what your feeling at that time.

  15. #15
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    Although , composition is an element of photography I struggle with (along with choosing a subject, DOF, exposure, fstop ,aperture, lighting and choice of lens; I am getting quite good at remembering to charge my battery) I will add something that drives me mental. I shoot a lot from low angles in grassy or brushy environments. I have to check there is not some leaf, twig or clump of grass intruding in from the edge and grotesquely out of focus. I suspect the human eye is adapted to see past these things to focus on the main item of interest (for instance a tiger behind some bushes) when walking about. I cannot count the number of images I have with some tiny twig sticking half way into the image and blurred almost out but present enough to destroy the image utterly.

    On the same vein, my camera has 90% of the image visible through the view finder. Become comfortable with whatever crop factor your view finder has and account for it. I have a lot of images where I spent time balancing and composing a closeup of some old barn, only to get home and find some washed out leaf in one corner where cropping would destroy the intent I had when composing in camera.

    Probably not a common problem, I just have this flattened spot on my forehead from slamming it on the table when checking my pictures when I get home and process the days crop of images.

    Love the sense of humour Trevor. Thanks for the tips.. I see you are from BC. I just moved from Victoria. I miss BC, wish I had of found my interest in photography while I still lived there. So many beautiful things to take pictures of there.

  16. #16
    Shambhala's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    Thanks..! I will remember to just trust what I am seeing.

  17. #17

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    Re: Composition

    The key to good composition is to shoot less and observe more. You should know why you are bothering to click the shutter in the first place, and then think about the elements that have drawn your attention. Can you present them in a more interesting way? What can you do in terms of framing, focusing, lighting, and angle of observation to make it clear to your viewers what you wanted them to see? Are there elements in the frame that are not part of what you are trying to communcate? Is there something you can do to remove them from the photo?

  18. #18
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    I grew up in a small village (Onondaga) SE of Brantford, Ontario. I envy you the glorious fall colours, which unfortunately you will be seeing far too soon this being Canada. I am sure you will find a ton of stuff to shoot even within walking distance of your house. I may live in BC, but I live in the boreal forest bit; rather than the flashy Southern Rockies or the scenic Southwest coast. You just have to hone your eye for your local environment, people walk by fabulous things all the time. Stop and stare at the mundane for several minutes, you could be amazed by what you see.

  19. #19
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Composition

    See Tom's comment for a better explanation of what I meant

  20. #20
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    Re: Composition

    Hi Shannon,

    Above all I find isolating the subject almost every time the key element in a composition. The more impact the subject you intended to shoot has on the photograph the better the photograph draws out its message to the spectator and what way is easier than just let other things out as much as possible. Whenever I frame a composition I (try to) ask my self about every part of the composition if it's important enough to keep, and otherwise it has to go.

    The other guidelines like the rules of thirds or the excellent list Jiro posted is important to keep in mind to improve your composition, but for me the above mentioned is the only 'rule'.

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