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bjorke
08-13-2007, 04:33 PM
It's just like hockey. Don't look at the goalie, look at the empty spaces around him.

(And of course: you miss all the shots you don't take)

roteague
08-13-2007, 04:50 PM
Any rules of composition no matter where one finds them (books, museums, workshops etc.) are made to be broken. My mentors in photography all instructed me to just "really" look at the world around me. If it looks good to one's eye, it is worth recording on film. Save your money on books and workshops and just shoot a lot. Your compositional "eye" will develop its own style.

Walker

"Rules" is really a bad description of the process, a better term would be guidelines.

However, the best practice is to follow the guidelines as much as possible - and I don't mean only the "Rule of Thirds". The "Rule of Thirds" is only one of the guidelines of good composition. The reason I say it is good idea, is because the guidelines are based in nature and the world around us. Don't believe me? Just look at the petals of a flower. You will see the petals are arranged according to the Golden Mean (another "rule" of composition overlooked). Most ancient architecture of the Greek and Roman worlds follow these "guidelines" as well.

I have some websites at home that goes into these other guidelines in more detail. I'll try to find them when I get home.

I'm not saying that one needs to be a slave to a set of rules, simply pointing out that there are certain guidelines that are based upon the natural world, and based upon western though.

FWIW

Bob Carnie
08-13-2007, 04:55 PM
When I played hockey , I just tried to drive the puck through the silly bugger.
*I hate goalies*

It's just like hockey. Don't look at the goalie, look at the empty spaces around him.

(And of course: you miss all the shots you don't take)

Michel Hardy-Vallée
08-13-2007, 05:50 PM
Another interesting art-historical exercise to tackle is to look at original "great masters" paintings and then examine their copies. It is interesting to see how the copies evolve over time, and the way they diverge from the originals.

My favorite series:

Giorgione's Sleeping Venus:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Venus_dormida.jpg

Titian's Venus of Urbino
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tizian_102.jpg

Manet's Olympia
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6a/Manet%2C_Edouard_-_Olympia%2C_1863.jpg

The aristocratic, the bourgeois, and the popular all united by the same love of reclining nudes. Although if someone makes a "degeneration" argument, he's dismissed from class immediately!

wheelygirl
08-14-2007, 07:11 PM
Howdy everyone
!!
Its amazing to me how certain things come up and slap me silly!! What I'm talking about is how, for about a couple of weeks, now, since I am unable to venture outdoors to take photos, [summer heat wears me out hugely] I got a few books, from my public library, on learning how to draw. As I've going along in these books, it occurred to me--gee, this may help with certain aspects my photography!! One of these books, I wound-up buying the newest edition, "Drawing on the Right-Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards, I feel will benefit me the most, as well as Bryon Peterson's "Learning to See Creatively" [it was cool to read the recommendation of this book, earlier in the thread!!]
My best advice to George is:go ye therefore, and have fun, with ye camera[s]!!!

Thorney
08-14-2007, 07:41 PM
As a Vancouverite, I love goalies!

I heartily recommend that you don't worry too much about composition especially at the time of photographing. You will find that you try too much to compose well and the results will be forced.

I went to art school and majored in photography without any formal composition training - likely for the above reason. What is really helpful is to look at your past work and notice things you do as a pattern - what works and what doesn't work. You'll find that you compose best when it is intuitive - like Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' Laloosh breathing through his eyelids in Bull Durham.

I also think that changing formats can help. Shoot a mix of handheld and tripod-bound cameras. Look over all your contact sheets some evening and really see what works best. View cameras can really help, but so can handheld cameras.

Finally, learn from the masters - buy books of John Sexton, Edward Weston, and others before wasting money on 'theory of composition' books.

My 2 cents worth eh?

Thorney

Bruce Osgood
08-14-2007, 08:04 PM
I think Donald Miller is in Italy gathering data for such a book.

Bandicoot
08-16-2007, 01:19 PM
I wholeheartedly second the advice to look at paintings, and at photographs - one's own as well as others' - as much as possible. (I also second the recommendation of "Drawing on the Right-Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards.)

Look at pictures to see how the eye is led through the frame from point to point, what makes it rest in any one place, what makes it feel slowed down or makes it restless. Graphic design - packaging particularly - can also be a good field to look at for these things.

In terms of balancing masses and colours, I often recommend looking at a good book on flower arranging.

Look at your own work to see which pictures you like and which you either don't like, or simply 'pass over' as not holding your attention - the latter are probably the best exemplars of 'bad' composition (if there is such a thing).


I heartily recommend that you don't worry too much about composition especially at the time of photographing. You will find that you try too much to compose well and the results will be forced.

I think the goal is to get the the point where any compositional techniques are wholly internalised: one doesn't think about them when shooting, simply framing what 'looks right'. However, reviewing one's own work and examining that of others helps a lot with getting the 'eye' in the first place. The point is not to copy what works for other artists but to learn what does and doesn't excite you, and then file that away in the very back of the brain where it begins to form a set of internalised guidelines that direct your eye when you come to make the picture. I agree that obsessing about 'rules' in the conscious mind when photographing is almost always a handicap, but I think that for many it is a necessary stage to pass through along the road to getting one's eye fully developed and one's sense of composition fully internalised into the unconscious mind.

The one time I do sometimes find myself consciously drawing on the 'rules' when photographing is that situation when I find something and feel that I know there is a good picture in there somewhere, but I can't find it. Then I may apply the 'rules' as a series of ways of looking at the scene, and that process may (or may not) help me find the picture that I felt was hiding from me.

Of course there are lots of books explicitly on composition, and reviewing these as part of the process of looking at lots of pictures can be a help in understanding why certain compositions 'work'. The one I have been most impressed by, and most recommend to students, is "Photo Composition" by Ulf Sjostedt (don't be put off by the cover picture, which is the least good one in the whole book!)


Peter

jovo
08-16-2007, 01:54 PM
As I don't know how you as an individual learn best, it would be wise to examine all the advice given above and choose what seems most like the way with which you're comfortable. If you're a very verbal person, and learn well through explanation, then a text would be a good starting point. If you're intuitive, and particularly visual, then just looking at lots of well made work will be helpful. If you learn best by doing, then that's the tack to take. But, since most people employ a synthesis of all those modes, exploring them all, at least to some degree, is probably a good idea. But you need to either be able to articulate, or at least 'sense' the 'rules' before you can break them, and have a clue why you're doing so. Otherwise, you will flail about wildly for far longer than you should and pretty much resemble me as a tennis player; now and then I do something brilliant, but haven't a clue how to do it again, and again. Lessons (from whatever source), constant practice, and the discipline to follow the process through to the end (including ciritiques by people you respect) are the only reliable ways I can think of to move in the direction of mastery.

panastasia
08-16-2007, 02:04 PM
Howdy everyone
!!
Its amazing to me how certain things come up and slap me silly!! What I'm talking about is how, for about a couple of weeks, now, since I am unable to venture outdoors to take photos, [summer heat wears me out hugely] I got a few books, from my public library, on learning how to draw. As I've going along in these books, it occurred to me--gee, this may help with certain aspects my photography!! One of these books, I wound-up buying the newest edition, "Drawing on the Right-Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards, I feel will benefit me the most, as well as Bryon Peterson's "Learning to See Creatively" [it was cool to read the recommendation of this book, earlier in the thread!!]
My best advice to George is:go ye therefore, and have fun, with ye camera[s]!!!

Wheelygirl,

It might interest you to know, if you don't already, that Betty Edwards can also teach us about colors and how they work in a visual sense. You may already know that, or have her book on that subject.

Regards,
Paul

cowanw
08-16-2007, 03:51 PM
As I don't know how you as an individual learn best, it would be wise to examine all the advice given above and choose what seems most like the way with which you're comfortable. If you're a very verbal person, and learn well through explanation, then a text would be a good starting point. If you're intuitive, and particularly visual, then just looking at lots of well made work will be helpful. If you learn best by doing, then that's the tack to take. But, since most people employ a synthesis of all those modes, exploring them all, at least to some degree, is probably a good idea. But you need to either be able to articulate, or at least 'sense' the 'rules' before you can break them, and have a clue why you're doing so. Otherwise, you will flail about wildly for far longer than you should and pretty much resemble me as a tennis player; now and then I do something brilliant, but haven't a clue how to do it again, and again. Lessons (from whatever source), constant practice, and the discipline to follow the process through to the end (including ciritiques by people you respect) are the only reliable ways I can think of to move in the direction of mastery.

Well said
Regards
Bill