Struggling with Composition ...

Discussion in 'Photojournalism & Sports Gallery' started by Kawi_T, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. Kawi_T

    Kawi_T TPF Noob!

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    As an engineer technical stuff makes sense to me. However the art of photography is really eluding me. I'm REALLY struggling with composition. How do you guys and gals feel about the composition in these photos?

    1.
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    2.
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    3.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Kawi_T

    Kawi_T TPF Noob!

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    .... or lack thereof ....
     
  3. eravedesigns

    eravedesigns TPF Noob!

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    number 1 is nice because you have some good rule of thirds and same with number 2. The focus on number 2 makes it a really interesting shot for me so thumbs up on that one. The last one isn't so hot probably because its not centered and the colors...try making it a black and white.
     
  4. Spidy

    Spidy TPF Noob!

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    2 is awesome! Love it! Nice shot.
     
  5. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Composition is actually rather complex and there is no simple formula that fits everything - only guidelines to help. There are a number of factors that have to be taken into account when composing any picture, including balance, space, tone, colour and intention.
    The 'Rule of Thirds' is happily trotted out whenever composition is mention in Photography, but it is only of limited usefulness. It is popular though because it is ostensibly simple and relatively easy to understand. But sadly, most people who mention it don't actually understand it or how it works.
    So what is it?
    Basically one divides an image up using two equidistant vertical lines and two equidistant horizontal lines to give nine equal rectangles.
    There are now two ways to use these guides.
    The primary object can be placed at the intersection of two of these lines, or a major structural line (for example the horizon) can be aligned with one of the lines.
    The idea is to 'balance' the image, either balancing the main subject with the larger space around it - or balancing the lighter 'mass' (sky) with the darker 'mass' (ground).
    This balancing results in a sense of repose or calm. The visual dynamic becomes static.
    Putting the horizon along the top or bottom third divider works well for most landscapes for this reason.
    Putting the subject on an intersection only works if you want a feeling of stillness and you have only one or two main subjects and the rest of the image is relatively plain and uncluttered.
    The first image here is of a motorbike doing a wheelie, presumably as it pulls away. But it is reasonably sharp with no movement blur. It also has about 2/3rds of the image space in front of it. This large dead space pushes back against the 'bike visually.
    The net result is that the image is dead and lifeless. There should be a sense movement and power but instead we get nothing.
    Putting the 'bike in the right hand third would have all that space 'pushing' behind it and we would start to get a sense of the vehicle about to leap out of frame. Far more dynamic.
    The second image is similar. We should get a sense of energy held in check but instead we get... nothing.
    The third is just confused.
    The problem is not really with the composition - it's with the intention.
    You have no real idea of what you are trying to communicate to the viewer: the reason why you are taking the pictures.
    This is what you have to tackle if you want your pictures to move on from being just snapshots.
    What is it you see? Why do you want to take the picture? What do you want the viewer to feel?
    Ask those questions and the pictures you take then become a way to find the answers and your photography will begin to improve ;)
     
  6. rob91

    rob91 TPF Noob!

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    I can't imagine someone discussing the rule of thirds and not being familiar with your explanation, of course I've underestimated stupidity before.

    Also, on photo #1, you're entitled to your opinion but it's worth noting that it's common to leave a good deal of "dead space" like that in front of the subject. Neither way is always correct and both have their uses.

    Anyways, enjoyable post, nice to see someone put that kind of thought into their criticism.
     
  7. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Strange as it may seem, a great many people talk about Photography and voice their opinions without actually understanding what they are talking about.
    Happens all the time here.
    The rule of thirds is just one case in point. Mention composition and that's just about the only thing people have heard of. And too many people do not really understand it or know when it should be used.
    As for what is 'common useage' - Just because a lot of people do it, it does not mean it is right.
    In this case it isn't.
    Just for the record, I have a Degree in Photography, a Post-Graduate, several other Photographic qualifications, over 12 years working as an Advertising/Editorial professional in London and over 15 years as a qualified teacher lecturing in Photography (even writing a couple of Degree courses).
    All that made me think I might know what I was talking about but I suppose I could be wrong ;)
     
  8. eravedesigns

    eravedesigns TPF Noob!

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    I was giving a very very brief comment because no one else had posted. I still stand by my word that there is rule of thirds in those shots and I'm not saying thats all there is. I listed a rule in response to his composition troubles because usually IMO its a good place to start if you have composition problems because those rules are more of helpful guidelines. Just because they have rule of thirds doesn't make them amazing though.
     
  9. rob91

    rob91 TPF Noob!

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    Your pomposity is overwhelming. Listing your credentials doesn't impress me, I'd rather stick to the topic at hand.

    Again, opinions will vary, I happen to believe the empty space in shot #1 works. I guess the only difference is some of choose not to parade our opinions around as fact.
     
  10. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    The empty space to the right could work if there was a sense of movement in the motorbike but both the background and the 'bike are frozen and this works with the space to give stasis and I don't think this was intended given the subject
    There are numerous solutions to the compositional problem here, and I was trying to make a positive suggestion along with my reasoning. It is all very well saying do this or don't do that, but unless you explain why it doesn't really help anyone.
    As for the Rule of Thirds - if you put rulers on image number 1 you will find that the 'bike is not on a vertical nor a horizontal - and it is not at an intersection. None of the strong horizontal lines fit on the guides either, most being at an angle. It is therefore hard to see how this image can comply with the Rule of Thirds. And if you extended the rule so that things only had to fit approximately then every picture ever taken could be said to comply.
     
  11. Arch

    Arch Damn You! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with what Hertz said here and the suggestion that if you would like to try and work on composition you must try to allow it to help your subject matter. Try to think how the space around the subject makes it change the viewers perception, to give more drama or to give a better sense of movement.
     
  12. Lacey Anne

    Lacey Anne TPF Noob!

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    I think Hertz only listed his credentials to show his opinion was a valid one. And he's right, for the record. There's more to the rule of thirds than just splitting the image into three pieces. I have no credentials to back me up though. I took photography in high school, does that count? ;)
     

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