I hope I'm not going to offend anyone by saying I'm not altogether sure you can 'learn' composition. But if you're not happy with what you're doing - indeed for no particular reason, or all possible reasons, look at as much great art and great photography as you can. I think learning by osmosis is as helpful, or more helpful than learning or following any 'rules'.
Best of all, take a life drawing class, or possibly any drawing class, make yourself think about how to put something into empty space.
You got so many different advices.
If you want to learn, lake anywhere, two ways: yourself, or school.
If you take yourself it can take you and some 10 years to take off. If you go in school it will take you around 10 years to became an artist. The better school the less time after school will take you. Learning about composition will set you and many other questions, say perspective or working with light, or how to solve some artistical problem, ….
It is nothing different then how to become engineer or doctor. You can learn to twist the screw at the right torque, but it will not make you engineer. Nothing is different in art. Part time “artists” never made it, just like part time engineers or programmers.
If you wish to be an artist and learn many things turn your life. Rich is one that is happy not one that have money. Just “bite the bullet”.
Or even buy them, to make sure the magazines and bookstores stay in business. If you don't want to buy magazines, then at least read them at the library, where SOMEONE has paid for them.
Originally Posted by darinwc
I think the most important thing is balance.
Where is the most weight
and what is countering it
Look at your favorite paintings
Athletes in motion
you'll understand weight soon enough
Attached is a photo of a guy comparing himself to Tiger Woods
He wrote an entire "essay" on just how similar
their swings are
He said it was just the natural athletic talent that Tiger has that separates them
But if you look for a just a second it's obvious that the swings are
not at all alike!
Where is Bob's weight in the swing? Where is Tigers?
Bob looks as though he's out sweeping the driveway
Tiger is bashing the balls skull in.
Bob is standing still, hovering over the ball like a drunk wondering what the hell that yellow thing is
Tiger is practically sprinting
This guy will never compete with Tiger Woods till he begins to see weight
well, he will never have Tigers swing
Books make money.
Experience gives the knowledge to enable the writing of books.
Kids don't read books
Kids put in work
Kids are scientists
Adults are people with money in their pockets wishing to buy knowledge
Like other have said
Go out and play
Don't come in till mommy yells for you and then make up an excuse to stay out 5 minutes longer
If you get spanked
If those 5 minutes don't mean everything to you
probably never make it to that level you'd like to make it to
I second Poore's work, "Composition in Art" is a composition primer, available cheaply from Dover pubs. Sometimes I find the explanations rather obscure, but his book gives you the ability to analyze composition. He doesn't really take the "composition rules" road, rather he shows you how painters organize their work according to ideas like balance, line, color, shadow/light, etc. Once you can analyze a scene according to such tools (or similar ones, every artist have their own way of decomposing a scene), then you have a much stronger power in your hand.
Once you pored through Poore, go pick up a few painting books and a few photography books and try to see if you can reverse-engineer the way in which they are composed. You will be surprised to find geometrical regularities, equal areas of shadows and light, and so on.
The epiphanic moment about composition for me was when I realized that the pictorial space and the picture plane can be understood distinctively, so that you can build relationships between the two. For example, a vague shadow pattern that is happening in depth in a photo (3D), actually creates a perfectly geometrical manner on the picture plane (2D).
For me, it happened when I looked at the Polaroids series of Walker Evans. I was able to "get" seemingly banal pictures by understanding their composition. Eggleston does that to me too.
You might find "Image: Designing Effective Pictures" by Michael Freeman useful. I got it on recomendation by somebody a while back, and am just starting it now. It's from the Amphoto workshop series, and has a number of projects throughout it. I just finished "Learning To See Creatively" by Bryan Peterson. Also basic, but helps to stimulate thought on composition- some good ideas. As others have said (as do these books), painters are good people to look to.
Finally, a thread that tackles one of the most important things! All academic theories of photographic composition come directly, with a few elaborations, from theories of painterly composition. Forget about photography when learning about composition, it is a very recently invented tool. Go to the painters and draughtsmen who have been working since man first began to walk upright. For an understanding of picture-making in general it is wise to start with the greatest -- da Vinci's treatise on painting, unfortunately scattered through his writings and cluttered with his inimitable asides, but giving a unique understanding of seeing and perceiving from the hand of the greatest draughtsman who ever lived. Many of his insights cannot be understood until you have achieved a certain "serenity of seeing" that is very much at odds with modern life. One always falls well short when one deals with da Vinci.
Study the paintings of the Masters in all their glory, absorb their theories when they expressed them (they often did), there is nothing that a reasonably well-educated person cannot understand. Art history is largely irrelevant in this pursuit, since it deals primarily with tracking content -- inspiration and influences from the historical perspective -- with very little to say about how pictures were made, the materials and techniques involved.
Above all, become at least an adequate draughtsman as someone has already expressed. Forget photography. Spend a year in a life drawing class with a good teacher and pleasant fellow students. Expose yourself to the human figure and a large, empty sheet of paper. Start seeing in earnest. It is no coincidence that many of the greatest photographers knew how to draw rather well.
What coincidence! I was just reading through this thread, when I noticed the Portland Art Museum is having a show focusing on Rembrandt and the Dutch masters!
I'm going to go in tomorrow.
I learnt a lot about composition by looking at photographs I didn't like and working out why.. It's not only targetting the positives, it's avoiding the negatives