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  1. #1
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    Composition vs. exposure

    I had this thought the other day and wanted to know what everyone else thinks about this. When I take a picture, first thing I think about and find the most important is compostion. But after I started listing the things that I could think of that I somewhat automaticaly think about like: exposure, focus (which I think is part of compostion), and DOF (also I think is part of compostion); I found that I might put too much importance on compostion. Here's what I was thinking about.

    1. Is composition and exposure even subjects that can be compared to each other and therefore can compete for importance.

    2. Compostion seems to me more important because you can always crop; however, you can't stuff into the picture (for excample if you take a picture of a person and cut off their left half of the face). Were as in exposure, you can fix to some degree. Obviously though, if you over or underexposed by more than 2 or more stops, than composing correctly will not matter to much. What's your thoughts? I ask this in an attempt to somewhat simplify the learning curve of someone that is getting into photography so I can have them focus on one area (say compostion or exposure or the like) and preferably the most important.
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    Before exposure, and before composition... I think about the subject

    Maybe I'm just stating the obvious here, but surely the most important thing is finding an interesting subject/s and finding or creating good light... for someone just getting into photography I would consider that the most important thing to focus on.

    After that, composition - you know what the subject is, but you need to let the viewer know. Like you I would consider focus and depth of field to be part of composition.

    When focusing on those elements, to some extent you can let the camera 'do' exposure since that's not too hard to adjust in software (though more if you err on the side of underexposure - not a lot you can do about blown highlights)...

    Obviously it would be good to consider all these things at once, but really I consider developing an 'eye' for interesting subjects and lighting to be the most important factor, followed by composition which is how you communicate the subject and theme of the image to the viewer. Of course exposure is an important part of that too (the 'correct' exposure may depend on what you want to communicate to the viewer) but this is just my simplified take on it.

    "These ones are small. But the ones out there are far away."

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    Technique and Composition

    Technique includes all the technical areas: exposure, depth of field,
    f stop, shutter speed, ISO, lens, filter, colour balance, tripod, focus, etc.

    Composition is based on the elements of design used in art and included in this area is: rule of thirds, framing, angle, centre of interest, diagonals, paths leading into the image, the importance of the eyes in portrait and animal shots, colour, simplicity, etc.

    www.photoinf.com is a good source for info. on composition.

    skieur

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    To be perfectly honest I think composition is more important philosophically.

    Lets say I'm going to set up my shot of an old one room school. First I'm going to walk up and meter it. Then I'm going to set the camera for what I want to achieve exposure wise.

    Then I am going to forget that and work on what I want to see. I mean the school house has 360 degrees of looks. I want to find the one with exactly what I want in the shot. Then Im going to make it.

    So I do exposure first but it is a mechanical thing for the most part. Once you get the light value you can tinker with dof and other things like the drama effect, but in the end its all about the composition for me.

    If you read any of my critique it is obvious where I come down on this. I can't say it's the same for anyone else but thats how i do it.
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    going over it back and forth, and the many different instances i'm coming up with in my head with one being more important than the other...
    i'm gonna go with equal. yin and yang, you need both to make it great. lines and light i think interest the eye equally as well.
    like when asked "would you rather be too hot or too cold?"
    equally hate both!!! even though they are very different things. =)

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    This is like asking 'which is more important? Grammar or spelling?' when talking about language.
    You can get away with poor spelling.
    You can get away with bad grammar.
    You can even get away with poor spelling and bad grammar.
    But unless you have something interesting to say no-one will read past the first sentence.
    Don't just say nothing - say 'bokeh'!

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    good point hertz
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    I think it depends on the shot. If you are trying to capture vibrant color, exposure IS your composition. Also technially a well composed picture with HORRIBLE exposure can be all black or all white, but a correctly exposed horribly composed picture is at least of something.
    KEEP THIS IN MIND IF I CRITIQUE YOUR PHOTO
    This was an open minded opinion and I tried to make it more meaningful than just tearing the photo apart. I simply highlight what I find to be a strength or a weakness that enhances or degrades the quality of an image. I want it to be clear that I respect your right to agree or disagree with my viewpoints, but hope that they may have given you some insight or further understanding when you compared and contrasted my views with your own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hertz van Rental View Post
    This is like asking 'which is more important? Grammar or spelling?' when talking about language.
    You can get away with poor spelling.
    You can get away with bad grammar.
    You can even get away with poor spelling and bad grammar.
    But unless you have something interesting to say no-one will read past the first sentence.


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    Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns;
    It calls me on and on...


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    Quote Originally Posted by ZaphodB View Post
    Before exposure, and before composition... I think about the subject

    Maybe I'm just stating the obvious here, but surely the most important thing is finding an interesting subject/s and finding or creating good light... for someone just getting into photography I would consider that the most important thing to focus on.

    After that, composition - you know what the subject is, but you need to let the viewer know. Like you I would consider focus and depth of field to be part of composition.

    When focusing on those elements, to some extent you can let the camera 'do' exposure since that's not too hard to adjust in software (though more if you err on the side of underexposure - not a lot you can do about blown highlights)...

    Obviously it would be good to consider all these things at once, but really I consider developing an 'eye' for interesting subjects and lighting to be the most important factor, followed by composition which is how you communicate the subject and theme of the image to the viewer. Of course exposure is an important part of that too (the 'correct' exposure may depend on what you want to communicate to the viewer) but this is just my simplified take on it.
    Actually you got me thinking. Exposure can also be included (to some degree) because you might want to expose for the highlights leaving everthing else dark to convey a different meaning and or message than if you exposed for the shadows.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hertz van Rental View Post
    This is like asking 'which is more important? Grammar or spelling?' when talking about language.
    You can get away with poor spelling.
    You can get away with bad grammar.
    You can even get away with poor spelling and bad grammar.
    But unless you have something interesting to say no-one will read past the first sentence.
    Great analogy. I'm sorry for not making myself clear. I just assumed that you were taking a picture of an interesting subject.
    Last edited by BoblyBill; 05-17-2007 at 06:01 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoblyBill View Post
    1. Is composition and exposure even subjects that can be compared to each other and therefore can compete for importance.
    Some truth in that. also composition comes usually first in the process of taking a picture, since the settings you need for a good exposure depend on the composition. But coming second does not mean it is less important.

    Only on rare occasions I recompose an image because I cannot get a good exposure else.



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    I think exposure is inherent in composition. After all the self portrait I took and posted a few weeks ago everyone says it's too dark on their monitors. No it's not their monitors it was underexposed on purpose. I think it worked for the composition. Just like the picture I saw a few days ago of someone standing in front of a giant softbox.

    The only thing that can be said to be wrong is when the exposure doesn't match the composition.
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    Composition is putting the right ingredients in the cake. Exposure is baking it. If you use all the best ingredients, and then burn the cake, it sucks. If you make the cake using mud and old boots, but bake it perfectly, it also sucks.

    To the vast majority of photo viewers in the world, the content of a photo is more important than technical quality. When dealing with photographers as photo viewers though, the importance of technical quality is elevated, sometimes even beyond content.
    "There's no particular class of photograph that I think is any better than any other class. I'm always and forever looking for the image that has spirit! I don't give a damn how it got made." -Minor White

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    Well here is a real life situation happening on another forum. In tennessee they have activated a reserve or guard unit and they are headed for Iraq. Like the politics of it or not to hell with it. The call has gone out for photographers to donate their time and equipment to shooting family portraits. NO PROFIT involved, unless there are some residual orders or something. Profit should not be an issue anyway.

    So the comments started: well I would love to but I don't have a studio. I don't have a lot of fancy lighting equipment, but I would love to help. I would have to shoot outdoors and I don't know the locations in the areas you are talking about. It hasn't been fully organized yet. Lots of willing people who don't get it.

    My suggestion shoot in the armory or training center. Surely they have an american flag you could use as a background. Shoot outdoor is the weather is nice. If you don't have studio lights buy a piece of foamcore and shoot a reflector with your off camera strobe surely everyone who would be of interest to the families has at least that. These concerns were on a photo forum.

    Its the image (for sure this time) not the damn equipment.... see how little we have learned in photo forums.
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