Thursday, August 15, 2013

About Composition

About Composition

Here are some more thoughts on composition that can be shared on some objective level.. The first question that comes to mind is CAN PHOTOGRAPHY BE TAUGHT ?


 But, what is teaching anyway? Teaching means just guiding someone through the conventions of the society, their reasons for existence and their use. So, photographic composition techniques are based on our ways of seeing – how we are taught to see since childhood, how we have formed our ideas of what is beautiful and what not. Ways of seeing, our ideas about beauty, change as society changes with time. Accordingly, compositions also change.

People take and appreciate photographs for different reasons. The primary reason behind photography's development was to produce memories of events, of families, of friends. Photography began when mass immigration in human history was in its peak. In the late 18th and early 19th century. Most people had to move for log period to a different city, or even a different country for earning the bread. So, for months, or years, they used to be away from their families. Painting was not a cheap way to keep memories like that, nor it was feasible to paint for so many people. So, photography started – as memories, as records, as souvenirs.

Your friend goes to Alaska, sees the midnight sun of summer, and wants to share the beautiful, exotic memory with you. How could she do that? Photography is the most feasible, and the most objective way.
But, this is only one of her standing and looking positions. Besides, by her choice of lens, camera angle, and time of the year, she is showing you only a frozen moment of her total experience. It is how she saw the midnight sun through that focal length lens of camera, from this position. This is not really an objective representation of reality. This is her memory, only a slice of her memory.

So, always remember at the time of composing a frame, what you will show the viewer of the photo can only see that much. No more, no less.

All photos tell some story/convey some mood

Photos share personal experience. Any experience means some story, some mood. For example, when you look at the photo below, how do you feel?

Here comes another of her works    


You can see her photos have too much headspace than necessary. Later, if you see more of her photos you will see many classical rules of composition not followed, other rules more emphatically followed.

That was because of the nature of her photography. She was what we now call a documentary photographer. She wanted to make some strong and direct political comments through her photographs. So, she dispensed with some of the classical rules.

Landscape / cityscape :

Photos with human subjects in them are always appealing. That is because as human beings we can personally relate to them. But, many photographers take landscapes, cityscapes, automobiles, products, abstract designs, patterns. It is always good their working styles and conventions even if we ourselves never compose a frame without a man inside.

This was taken with a compact digital camera. The human being on the right could not be avoided. And  this is not a great photo. But, see how the rule of the third is maintained. When it meets the sky almost at a point, make that at the centre, the rule says so. And that is done. Also, landscape and cityscape photos can dispense with the mid-ground, as there are no individual subject, or centre of focus. Mid-ground, in classical pictures, is needed only for human subjects.

See a photo of a road meeting the sky by Ansel Adams that similar to this, as regards composition.


Similarly, you can see a cityscape 

The arch on the bridge, where the road ends, and the sky stars, is almost centrally placed in the frame. However, here the vertical structure is more inclined towards the right third. That is because it is real vertical structure unlike the road. The road is not really vertical in reality.

It is very difficult to get a striking cityscape picture. Many famous photographers' cityscapes are not so impressive when taken from low-angle, ground level.

And from the top, it sometimes resembles a news photograph.

You can try a photo from the top that won't look like a news one.

Can you try something like that in old Bombay roads? Some may be narrower than this one. Look at the at the denial of the rule of the third when it comes to the placement of the sky. It almost cuts the frame by half. Even the buildings are not placed on the vertical thirds. And this is not a balanced frame.

Do you like this frame? Or would you like to a similar space by different framing? Go to North Calcutta or Sealdah, and practice some such framing.

Patterns and Abstract Photography :

Most photographers more or less are interested in finding patterns and geometries in the frame. But, some of them emphasized more on the patterns themselves, than a realist representation of the world.

This is a photo taken with a  low level digital camera.  The photographer tried to capture the light itself as the impressionist painters did. It could have been done in a better way of course. I hope you do that.


Do you think the focus is nice? Or could it be bettered? The focus is none of the object. It is somewhere in the empty space. I have shown the area of maximum focus.


This is taken with a slightly wide angle lens. You can see the wide tange of focus. Almost the whole frame is in focus. That is a characteristics of wide angle lenses. Also the legs are bigger than the background, and the room appears very big. Both of these happen in a wide angle lens.


See how he got an abstract image from nature, also how he almost halved the photo by diagonally separating the foreground (the sands) from the mid, and by a curve separates the mid from a background.


Using patterns and shapes in realist compositions :

You can use existing patterns in reality to make the picture more dynamic, or to give more emphasis on some part of the frame. You can also arrange the objects in the frame in a shape.

                                                                     So much backspace. But it shows the road traveled. These diagonal lines give the photo its needed dynamics. Try to shoot such a photo yourself tomorrow. You can do that at any zebra crossing in the city. Only you have to use a tele lens, and a building's top terrace.


See the curve in the photo. In the city too you can find such curves. Always find geometrical patterns in the natural arrangement of the elements in the frame.

Can you tell me which lens did he use to take this photograph?

Remember, photography is very vast subject, and slowly it gets exciting and interesting. As you know more and more how people see and how you can control their mind in subtle ways by showing them photographs, you develop your own style.

Practice with your camera, try to make the same kind of frames as the master photographers. And also try to make those frames better than them.

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