The best photo images are not taken anyway, they are “made,” and I have always thought that learning photo composition is not that much more different than learning anything else. Some people just catch on faster than others, but eventually with practice most people can do it. How long that will take mostly depends on how you go about it. The only real way to practice composing an image is by recording them on film, or digitally, so that you can see what you did right, and what you did wrong? It is actually all of your mistakes that teach you how to do it right the next time. However, just slapping a lens on your camera and shooting away is not the answer either. As the saying goes, “There has to be a method to the madness.”~by Paul W. Faust from his article The Art of Seeing: An Exercise in Photo Composition
Principles of Visual Dynamics
If you like rules, remember exceptions prove the rules. Being too insistent on the application of hard and fast rules can blind you to many exceptional opportunities. If you don’t like rules, remember that while there are no absolutes there are forces at work that have consistent tendencies. Denying or ignoring universal principles will lead to unpredictable unrepeatable results; you’ll achieve success far less frequently and be far less able to repeat your successes.
Forget rules. Forget absolutes. Forget musts. Instead develop an awareness of visual principles. Look for the unique power each element has to influence a composition. Develop a sensitivity to how elements and combination of elements make the forces at work in a composition stronger or weaker. Instead of composing formulaically, you’ll then be able to improvise. Understanding the principles of visual dynamics will help make your decision making process more informed, it will not make choices for you. Awareness is the key. Better awareness brings better choices bringing better results.
~John Paul Caponigro from his article Photographic Composition: Introduction
The decisions that the photographer must make are decisions that are made on the basis of feelings and emotions. Decisions that are aimed at expressing our emotional response to a scene, our perception of the subject we desire to photograph, and our personal artistic approach. All of these represent individual choices, choices that we are usually unaware of until we find ourselves in the act of capturing a specific subject with a lens and a camera. As such, this process prevents camera designers and software engineers to program either the hardware or the software to automatically express our response to the subject. They cannot program it any more than we can program it because both of us ignore what this response will be.
So what am I getting at in this explanation? I am getting at the fact that no matter how advanced and automaticized the equipment and the software we use becomes, there cannot be a substitute for individual input and expression.
What I am also getting at is the fact that the field of endeavor where this individual input is best expressed is the field of composition. Why? First, because composition is about personal choices: very few, if any, aspects of composition can be automaticized. Second, because composition is a field of endeavor composed of multiple facets and not just a set of rules. If it was just a set of rules it would be possible, theoretically, to think that these rules may be embedded in camera or computer software and that such software may have the ability to “compose” photographs on the basis of these rules, or the ability to give us directions aimed at helping us compose images in a specific way.
Sunsets are not meant for the black and white medium. I prefer sunsets and sunrises as they are meant to be – enjoyed in full, vivid colors such as the images posted during the whole sunset week. But as I said many times before, there is something about black and white images – the classic, clean lines and the play of tones, 256 shades of grays to be exact, plus pure white and pure black. There lies the challenge of sunsets in monochrome. Stripped of those fiery reds, vibrant orange and lucid yellows, what do you show? Show the shapes, silhouettes, forms and lines. Those are the elements you are left with, so highlight them. In the above picture, you are drawn to the scattering of rocks on the shore while at the bottom image the point of interest are those silhouettes of huts. The trained eye can spot these shapes, yet a keener eye which visualizes in black and white can foretell that the image will work without the distraction of color. I hope everyone enjoyed our sunset week. Till next week when we embark on another picture series. Have a great weekend my friends!
Wishing everyone an enjoyable weekend!
I can say that I’ve just been plain lucky to chance upon gorgeous sunset scenes. You can’t gamble with the weather and atmospheric conditions, they are as fickle as they can be. One minute it’s sunny, another minute it’s cloudy. I’m the fatalistic type, if serendipity is on your side you’ll be presented with a heavenly, once-in-a-lifetime scene. If not, better luck next time. It just so happen that with my outdoor sojourns I am sometimes greeted with spectacular sunset sceneries and, for a photographer, these are manna – blessings from heaven – scenes that I may not see again. And rightly they are rare, unique occurrences. There is never the same sunset everyday. Each is a special daily spectacle. You may have the chance or luck to be there, at that moment, or you may not. When given the chance, you just have to be ready to capture nature’s stunning, colorful display. A quote comes to mind – chance favors those who are prepared, something like that. I am always alert and mindful of photographic opportunities, knowing that I may not see the same scene again. It helps to have foresight and quick, deliberate decisions as you never know what unforgettable views you may encounter.
A sunset can be your point of interest. But then that’s just that – sun, sky, clouds, colors. Those elements may be more than enough to carry an image. Yet there are times a sunset can be an interesting backdrop, an exciting candy-colored canvas playing an important supporting role to a main subject. Why this approach? Since sunsets are often paired with sweeping horizons, putting a focal point in your foreground or middle ground indicates scale and vastness. You present an earthly dimension of size, the broadness of nature. Another thing is you ramp up your composition, arranging elements with the the use of perspectives (foreground against a background), placing main subjects in relation to minor ones (framing or rule of thirds), and presenting a general point of view (vantage points or elevated shots). You work out your shots with sunsets. You are given precious few minutes from observation to execution when the sun mellows down and dips into the horizon. And you can take on either or all approaches in a way that is interesting and captivating. You can never go wrong capturing a sunset scene. But everything can go wrong if you don’t know how to.