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  1. #1
    copake_ham's Avatar
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    Suggestions for a Composition primer

    I've always been just a "shooter" with not much more knowledge of "composition" other than "The Rule of Thirds".

    Can folks here recommend a good intro text on Composition?

    I know I should just go to the ICP or SVA and take a course - but would like to "read up" first.

  2. #2

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    William Mortensen's The Command To Look

  3. #3
    phaedrus's Avatar
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    I'd recommend Rudolf Arnheim's "Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye". It marries perception psychology to art history to not only give you "rules of composition" but also the reasons behind them. A real eye opener!

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    There's also Perception and Imaging by Richard Zakia.

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    I think I learned more about composition from really studying a book of photographs by Atget than from reading any text. First step is learning to see the edges of your viewfinder.
    juan

  6. #6
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    OOP for a long time but Harald Mante's Photo Design:Picture Composition for Black and White Photography is a good one. ISBN 0-442-25150-5

  7. #7
    mmcclellan's Avatar
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    I would skip "composition" books entirely and go straight to the painters. Study the work of Johannes Vermeer, especially, as well as virtually any painter from the "Golden Age" of Dutch painting. Their compositions still rule the roost, for the most part, and studying them closely will really help you to develop a good eye for alignment of the various elements in an image.

    Pieter Saenredam is another of my personal favorites, but you can learn volumes by visiting any art museum and studying the compositions in paintings carefully. And, needless to say, study the compositions of great photographers, most especially Paul Strand, Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and many others.

    Personally, I favor the study of compositions by artists (to include painters and photographers) who work slowly, thoughtfully, and deliberately -- and that includes Cartier-Bresson who often composed his photos and then waited for a decisive moment to happen in front of a good backdrop.

    Even if you end up doing spontaneous street shooting, I think these purveyors of superb compositions will serve you well and your eye will improve greatly from the study of images, FWIW.
    Michael McClellan
    Documentary Photographer
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    http://www.MichaelMcClellan.com

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmcclellan View Post
    I would skip "composition" books entirely and go straight to the painters. Study the work of Johannes Vermeer, especially, as well as virtually any painter from the "Golden Age" of Dutch painting. Their compositions still rule the roost, for the most part, and studying them closely will really help you to develop a good eye for alignment of the various elements in an image.....

    <snip>

    .....you can learn volumes by visiting any art museum and studying the compositions in paintings carefully. And, needless to say, study the compositions of great photographers, most especially Paul Strand, Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and many others.
    You just made my day.

    The above is the advice I dish out to people asking about composition and learning to photograph well. Photography is closely related to painting in the composition, we're just using different instruments to actually play the final score.

    Course, nobody ever actually visits the museums and studies the things I suggest, but I keep on giving the same advice....

  9. #9

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    An understanding of the basic rules of composition is helpful in forming a foundation, however the best way to learn composition is by viewing really good work. Paintings, photographs and drawings can be a clue as to how to employ the rules of composition and how to break them. Ultimately it's the breaking of the compositional rules that can lead to the most interesting compositions.

  10. #10
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    I agree with a visit to the art museum (you can tour the Louvre online here: http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home...p?bmLocale=en).

    What may also be of some help is to actually make a 'primer' of your own. Take photos of something from different angles and placing the subject in different parts of the window. I'd pring them out 3x5 and put them in one of those photo albums with pockets so you can see them side by side. You will begin to see the types of arrangements that attract you and can start to define a compositional style that you like. Hope this give you an alternative idea!
    Jeanette
    .................................................. ................
    Isaiah 25:1

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