Center composition...

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by JohnRichard, Sep 23, 2009.

  1. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    Some thoughts and questions:

    This is from the copy on the 8x10 competition via WPPI:
    /soapbox Ok, so the thing that gets me is, why should the subject NOT be in the direct center? There are loads of photos in the Gallery that have just this; center subject. Now, I don't think that a picture with some naked lady softly lit on the beach way off to the left is any more attractive than an orchid direct center, hard lit with loads of contrast.

    Second, if I think an image needs the highlights blown out, then I do it. I mean, I understand that this competition is for people that want to fit a cookie cutter, which is NOT me, but the question remains.

    I don't know how to even approach the last statement. I don't know anything about "treatments" and "enhancements" in photochop, but could the same thing be said about darkroom time? Could a photo be too burned or dodged? I don't think so. Why should the light be subtle. What if the bride specifically asked to be lit in hard shadows because she is having a murder mystery wedding and wanted a noir feel?

    Sure, some of these images are good, but I don't get it.

    I don't think competitions like this make art, photographers, or unique images. I think they shouldn't be called competitions. Well, maybe if they want to be called "everyone should make the exact same image competition".

    I searched for any information I could find on WHY one would not put the subject in the center, and then I found about 8 trillion images from 1850 on with just that. I just can't wrap my mind around it.
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Feel better now? :wink:

    You're right that these 'rules' are meant to be broken... and they often are.

    As for competitions, well nobody says you have to enter them! :rolleyes: Before you give a particular competition a millisecond of your time, why not look at the past winners' work and see if you'd even want your work judged in a similar way. As for me, competitions are just not something I've ever cared for. I mean, generally these things are done simply to boost readership or advertise a product... not really to boost anyone's photographic career or teach them something that they didn't already know!
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    dang keith, you are fast ...

    ....
    what he said!
     
  4. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    a: I like your work.

    2: I totally forgot to say that I have no intention on entering this competition. People pay me for my work, that's good enough competition for me.
     
  5. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Aesthetics of placement on any size medium (35mm, 6x6, 6x7, 8.10 etc.) are based on one's working interpretation of the key subject and its interrelationship with surroundings (see sample of lower-centre placement and left-corner anchor, cropped from 35mm).

    The popular square (medium) format often sees centre-placement ill-considered (especially wedding photographs) as the photographer is being unconsciously constrained by the format and that a symmetrical central placement looks best, yet moving a the key object(s) away from the centre or even to the extreme edge (asymmetrical: for abstract interpretations of visual-spatial relationships) can have considerably more impact. The larger the format, the more care needs to be exercised judiciously with composition and the placement of key elements.

    Very true of the other posts, but not the competition, apparently; rules can be broken and fun lessons can be learned by doing so, but you should be prepared to illumine your decision where the underlying choice is ambiguous. And that brings me to the next bit:

    Look at the lighting and posing – your subjects shouldn’t be dead-center in the image, lighting should be subtle – no hot spots or blown-out highlights. And check out your enhancements – does the image look over-photoshopped? Have you lost the real meaning of the image by adding too many treatments? If so, then you shouldn’t be entering those images.

    Well, goodness! Sounds like the person writing this (who also comes across as having a limited grasp of highlight/shadow control) could do with a solid grounding in foundation skills in photography rather than pander to cheap and cheerful "enhancements" per se in Photoshop. :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 23, 2009
  6. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    There can be too much photoshop. However, variable contrast burning to achieve more consistent tonality throughout your image probably does not fall into the category of "over-photoshopped."
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    this is true,
    but there are "treatments" that can be
    done in a traditional darkroom, that can easily be overdone ..
    too much contrast, too little contrast, vignetting, star filtering,
    "the big hand" to dodge and make things look too 3-d,
    screening, thwack the enlarger while it is exposing the print,
    printing through "stuff" ...

    the problem is that competitions try to homogenize
    and better things happen when there is no homogenization ...
     
  8. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Rules are meant to be broken by those who a) actually understand, fundamentally, why it is considered a rule in the first place and b) who know how and when to break rules in order to add to the impact of the result. Rules should not be broken by those who a) have no idea why it is a rule, or worse, don't even know that it is a rule b) have no idea what they are trying to say in the first place, and/or c) are more concerned with impressing and/or emulating others than with expressing themselves. At least in my humble opinion. Also in my opinion, since we're ranting :wink: these sorts of competitions tend to be filled primarily with the latter rather than the former, but I could be wrong...

    - Randy
     
  9. shotgun1a

    shotgun1a Member

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    I'd point out that some folks say shooting pictures for pay, per client spec, is the exact same antithesis of photographic art that you assign to the competition. We all have our ideas of what is "pure" or "true" art, and any encroachment on that is an affront, but keep in mind that everyone's boundary of offense is in a different spot. And that's ok.

    I personally enjoy constrictive competition because it gives me a good chance to think counter to my norms and potentially get something I wouldn't have gotten without the artificial boundary.

    I think a problem arises when the organizers of a competition attempt to assign some kind of global significance to their constrictions. The "rules" are only rules in the context of a given community (for example, the entrants of said contest). A good example is APUG's dis-allowance of any non-analog image. It fits the community, but it's certainly not universally applicable to all art, or even all photography.

    As to your incredulity about why one would not center a subject, I get the impression that you already know why but are using hyperbole to make a point, but I bet if you do some searches on the infamous "rule of thirds" you'll find plenty of information to wit, and potentially 8 trillion images from 1650 where subjects are laid on the power lines rather than the center line. This, however, does not invalidate a powerful image WITH a centered subject, yet it may answer your question.

    Similarly I disagree with you in that an image can be over-processed in the darkroom as easily as in Photoshop. Ok, not as EASILY insofar as the amount of time and effort involved, but my point is that nothing about a darkroom precludes a heavy-handed nincompoop from ruining a perfectly good image by dodging, burning, choosing the wrong contrast, vignetting, masking, colorizing, desaturating, etc. ad nauseum. (Note that said nincompoop had plenty of chances both before and after the print process to ruin the image as well, from bad exposure to the wrong mat color)

    Finally, what if a bride asked for off-center compositions with subtle, soft light?
     
  10. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    Perhaps I was a bit upset when I wrote that. It happens. As to your question, I have been thinking about that very thing. Is the customer always right. A fellow photographer and myself were having a discussion in which he stated that people buy his digitally produced work (all digital) because it looks like everyone elses work, just better. I said people buy my work because it doesn't look like everyone else. If they want photography in a can, all looking the same, they can go to you. If they want my artistic ability and vision, they come to me.

    We agreed to disagree, because we are good friends. But that still left me wondering if I should expand my "artistic vision". Should I make images that I don't like, nor have any desire to spend time on, just to make money? Most people I talk to say yes. I'm not convinced.

    That's off topic and I'm sorry.
     
  11. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Look at the lighting and posing – your subjects shouldn’t
    be dead-center in the image, lighting should be be subtle
    – no hot spots or blown-out highlights.


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandersnyc/3918549678/

    I have sooo much to learn to be a good photographer. >8^/
     
  12. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    If everybody composed using the 'rule' of thirds, then the advice could have been: "Try something really unusual, e.g. compose with the subject centered in the frame."
     
  13. shotgun1a

    shotgun1a Member

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    Actually, I think you're exactly ON topic.

    One important distinction, I think, is that there's a difference between shooting for money and shooting for a living. If you shoot for a living, you're necessarily (with possible exceptions) going to be working for the client rather than yourself and, by definition, you're going to temper your "artistic vision" according to what the client wants. Sure, you'll seek out clients that agree with your vision. And, if you're particularly successful, you'll be able to turn away clients that don't. However, at the base of it all you're still working for hire and as such not entirely at liberty to follow your own whims--the compulsion to eat and live indoors is strong among humans and difficult to ignore.

    Shooting for money (as opposed to for a living) allows you much greater freedom, but even so, one will (either conciously or not) consider the client's wishes when making an image.

    Exactly at what point one becomes able to both generate income from an artistic pursuit and pursue it entirely at one's own liberty is a very unclear point indeed. It's a point that certainly exists, though. My point on restrictive contests, though, is that they put you in neither group by default.
     
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  15. rmolson

    rmolson Member

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    center

    You are not suppose to use a horizontal format for portraits either, b ut Arnold Newman blew that idea away
     
  16. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    You are supposed to do everything, anything, you need to do to get the picture the way you like it.

    Anyone who thinks something else should find another hobby.
    Typically, people who do like to tell other people what to do more than anything else, and would do the same, whatever hobby they choose.
    The overwhelming desire to tell people what to do is also why those people gravitate towards the executive committees of clubs, and end up being judges at competitions.
     
  17. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Those are displays not competitions. Just because they are juried(usually by self described"experts")doesnt make these venues worth attending. Let the di#$%#@l morons use them to feel good about themselves.IMHO true art is meant to evoke emotion of any sort. If anyone can display a work that compels the viewer to fret and stew about what they have seen, has done his(or her)job. Any photographer that is willing to step out of the "norm" deserves some accolades, and never be ashamed or afraid to put their work up for public viewing. Okay, I'm done ranting.
    Rick
     
  18. GeorgeDexter

    GeorgeDexter Member

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    Are there enough soapboxes to go around?

    I generally agree with this: You have to understand the conventions of the genre before you can make the artistic decision to disregard them. On the other hand, learning, and following, these basic conventions does stifle creativity somewhat. I think this is one of the oldest philisophical debates in the art world, and there is no real answer. Invariably, the creators of this contest will get some of what they expressly asked people not to submit, so in the end it will balance out. They will have both, submissions that follow the 'rules' and those that break them. May the best photos win.
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    what i find to be kind of funny about the website / contest linked to
    is that it is a professional organization with an international scope for
    portrait and wedding photographers ( kind of like the asmp but different).
    usually people who shoot weddings and portraits for a living have a clue when it comes
    to composition &C. it seems to be talking to
    these people as if they just picked up a camera and are trying to find
    their way ...
     
  20. JohnRichard

    JohnRichard Member

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    I guess that's what set me off in the first place. I don't think I will ever join the WPPI, just like I don't think I will ever join the ASCAP. Now if the ASC, american society of cinematographers wants to give me an honorary membership, I wouldn't pass that up. I don't know... maybe its just my
    "I'm not really a fan of 'societies'" attitude. I am freelancing a wedding for my cousin, because she likes my "flavor". She is having a "professional" do her ceremony, and I am anxious to see what he will produce.
     
  21. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Obviously you have no idea how true that is. :surprised:
     
  22. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    In my hometown in Virginia, I've met several
    people who hold themselves out as portrait and
    wedding photographers, with storefronts and
    studios and everything. And they basically didn't
    have a clue about photography -- they plunked
    the money down on a digital something-D and
    hooked it up to a computer and made it up as
    they went along. And people pay them and
    are happy with what they get.

    It has made me wonder about the role of
    "professional" photography in an age when
    everybody has a camera stuck in their phone.
     
  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    the whole thing is kind of weird ... and to think they are "professionals"
    charging 5K a wedding ...
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    That's $1 per shot. :tongue:
     
  25. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    :smile:
     
  26. rmolson

    rmolson Member

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    I saw my grand daughters wedding shots on the web and I guess volume is more important than quality!