Learning composition

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Sirius Glass

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I learned composition from looking at art in museums.

The first thing that I would recommend it that if your photographs are not interesting, move in closer and get rid of anything extraneous, unneeded or distracting from the composition.

Then do not put the subject in the middle of the frame every time.

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Andrew O'Neill

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Make a cutout in an old piece of matt board (black or white it doesn't matter) at the same aspect ratio as your camera's view finder. Walk around and compose with it. You can zoom in and out with it too. I make all my photography and art students do this. It's an excellent learning tool. I also teach them about the rule of thirds... that's good for beginners, too.
 

winger

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Experience and looking at images to see what works and what doesn't. When you are taking pictures, move around and get different angles, different views, etc.. Then look critically at the results and see which worked and why and which didn't work and why. It isn't something that can usually be learned in a short period of time.

There are "rules" of composition, but those are really a starting place and can be broken.
 

mark

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wiltw

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jim10219

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Make a cutout in an old piece of matt board (black or white it doesn't matter) at the same aspect ratio as your camera's view finder. Walk around and compose with it. You can zoom in and out with it too. I make all my photography and art students do this. It's an excellent learning tool. I also teach them about the rule of thirds... that's good for beginners, too.
That’s a great tool!

The rule of thirds is great for beginners, but I rarely obey it anymore. There’s also the golden ratio. And there are an infinite number of other schemes you can employ. What you need to do is develop an eye for composition. To do that, you need to expose yourself to a lot of great compositions, and analyze what makes them great. At first, you’ll want to go to museums or look at other well respected works to start to get a feel for it. The usual sources of the internet, TV, and magazines usually serve as pretty poor examples. So until you have a better understanding, I’d trust the experts who write art books and curate museums. Look for things like balance, symmetry, rhythm, and leading lines. You want to lead the viewer’s eyes around your composition, giving them many things to look at (most of the time). Once you develop a good eye for this, you can start to look for inspiration in other sources.

There’s no one right way to compose an image. You just need the experience and knowledge to develop a sensitivity for such things. This will take a lifetime to master, but if you dedicate time and effort to it, you can make quick progress.
 

foc

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Learning composition is like learning any language, you need to know and understand the basics. It may come natural or it may be hard but stick at it and you will have an understanding of what composition involves.

Will you be any good at it? Well that's like asking any English speaker (for example) are they a Shakespeare (or insert your own well known author).

If you enjoy the hobby of photography, then read/view composition and the work of the classic painting artists, Rembrant, da Vinci, Raphael, etc. (they are classic for a reason). There are rules for composition and yes they can be broken BUT you need to know and understand them FIRST before you break them and know why you are doing so (otherwise it's just an excuse for bad composition).

Look at the composition and work of famous photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, etc. You will learn as much by viewing works as reading about them (learning by osmosis). Look at photos from magazines like National Geographic, Life Magazine (online) etc

As Andrew O'Neill said above , make a cardboard cutout viewfinder. Bring it with you everywhere and look at everything, not just the centre but all around the edges. Learn to think before you shoot.

It is not something that can be mastered over night, it will take time but it's will be fun to learn.
 

Ko.Fe.

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Compossiotion could be learned in art classes. More you learn about classic art and not only paintings, but music, poetry and writings more harmony you'll be able to absorbe and use. It doesn't have to be from big names, lesson and art. It has to resonate with you and you have to be motivated. You have to practice. Just like with anything. Programming, for example.
With few clicks on travel you are not going to learn much.
 

Luckless

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Also keep in mind your own work - Sit down and study the images you don't like and ask yourself WHY you don't like them. Compare those to the images that you do like.

Exploring composition is also something I can strongly recommend a digital camera for - A perfectly usable training tool comes free on nearly every phone these days, but an old dSLR gathering dust on someone's shelf is probably the best option if you don't have one yourself already. After removing the 'per click price tag', you are free to explore and experiment to a far larger degree. Go out, pick a subject that interests you, and photograph it to an obscene level, and then go home and being your detailed study on what you make - Why does one photo work more for you, why do others not, what distracts you, what interests you, where do your eyes wander, etc.

Reading about how others have composed images in the past is a great way to compose images similar to those in the past. Focus on your art and what inspires you, and don't worry too much about 'rules'. They're more guidelines anyway. Never be afraid of breaking them if you have a good reason, or even if you just feel like it.

Pay attention to your edges and your backgrounds. They're surprisingly important.
 

guangong

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As others have already said, museums, the golden mean ( a little complex because it identifies strong and weak areas within a frame, but useful to keep at the back of ones mind), even the composition of some movies. Look at all kinds of pictures, good, bad and indifferent, and when a picture almost forces you to look at it give some time and study as to how the elements of a picture are related to one another.
The great achievement of Western art was the invention of the frame.
Good practice can be using a subminiature camera such as a Minox or Minolta 16 for studying how to concentrate on essentials since in most hands(mine included) they will not tolerate much enlargement.
 

Arklatexian

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Make a cutout in an old piece of matt board (black or white it doesn't matter) at the same aspect ratio as your camera's view finder. Walk around and compose with it. You can zoom in and out with it too. I make all my photography and art students do this. It's an excellent learning tool. I also teach them about the rule of thirds... that's good for beginners, too.
The cutout described will never go obsolete. There will be times that it will come in handy throughout your photography life. Use three different formats? Make a cutout for each. I also make it a point to watch old B&W movies. Every one that I watch offers examples of beautiful composition because those in charge of photography were experts on the subject. I sometime watch with the sound off so I can concentrate better. Violate the "rules" of composition? I know it can be done. Been doing B&W photography for over sixty years and I guess, before I'm done, I just might find an occasion to do it but don't bet on it. And if you think that studying another photographer's picture will make your work look like theirs, it won't. After years of studying Ansel Adams' work, my work still doesn't look like his.........Regards!
 

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If all those great suggestion fail, you can just by a postcard. I try all the time to make my puctures look like the ones in the travel brochures(honestly) but I fail miserably ......
 

AgX

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But when I review the pics later, I will not be very happy the way my photos look. So I would like to know some good sources where I can learn composition.

Or you should learn to love your photographs...
 
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I have a lot of interest in photography and even click some pics whenever I travel. But when I review the pics later, I will not be very happy the way my photos look. So I would like to know some good sources where I can learn composition.

One key point: slow down. The other is learn to see with the camera, not just through it. A camera records a scene in a specific frame/format, unlike human eyes which see a vastly bigger and more detailed view.

For many people, a prodigious capacity for visual arrangement, composition, comes naturally and without effort. For others still, whole lifetimes can be spent trying learn it without success. Copying others is not the answer. If a scene does not speak to you when you look at it with the camera, it won't work. It has to resonate with you, and that will be the start of walking around, looking at the scene from various angles and "arranging" key elements. Yes, there are rules of composition, but they are not rigid, especially if you know what you are doing!

Some of my earliest city shots around Melbourne and country Victoria were based on my desire to record the changing of the seasons, with my favourite being autumn. More ideas came from seeing the fancy New Colour Vue postcards in the towns I travelled to or through that were once so common, but which have today been replaced with heavily Fauxtoshopped facsimiles of over-saturated colour and pasted-in blue skies, to say nothing of patently lousy composition.

You could also revisit your photos and experiment with cropping.
 

jtk

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Print big, show to others and insist on responses having given them no hints.

Composition is not a way to make worthwhile photos. It's incidental and often a distraction.
 

removed account4

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this article on the pentapixel might be useful
https://petapixel.com/2016/09/14/20-composition-techniques-will-improve-photos/
you can go to monseur google and ask him "composition tools in photography" and lots and lots of pages popple up
you will probably recognize most of them, including some suggested here in this thread...
you might also go back to the photographs you took and decide why you don't like them and why you took them
do they not give you the "feel" that you were there?
were they too close and your subject couldn't breathe?
too far and you couldn't see what you took the photograph for ( subject drowned out )?
i've found travel photography to be kind of hard because if i have never really been to wherever it is that i have travelled
to, i am kind of overwhelmed by the place .. but if i go out and
wander/safari on my own i can find the little things that i might want to remember like a shadow or weeds growing out of the street
or manhole covers or whatever, ...

Print big, show to others and insist on responses having given them no hints.

Composition is not a way to make worthwhile photos. It's incidental and often a distraction.

save your money if it was me,
i wouldn't show giantversions of your photography you don't like to people
unless you have nerves-of-steel, a fat-wallet ... and a sucker for punishment you know, you don't mind
someone saying "these are terrible, why did you print them so big, it must have cost a fortune making such giant prints, and by the way why the hell are you showing them to me?!"

then again you could always say with with those steely nerves
"buzz off buddy, i don't like these photos either i just wanted to get your response "

good luck + have fun!
 
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Print big, show to others and insist on responses having given them no hints.

Composition is not a way to make worthwhile photos. It's incidental and often a distraction.


The vast majority of photographs I see produced by amateurs could benefit a great deal from at least a modicum of consideration to compositional metrics.
 

jtk

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The vast majority of photographs I see produced by amateurs could benefit a great deal from at least a modicum of consideration to compositional metrics.

"Compositional metrics" don't worry photographers or other artists.

Photographers are merely camera operators. Camera operators, amateur or professional, should begin with some kind of notion about why they're making photos .

If one is afraid to share one's photos one should either hike up ones shorts or quit entirely.

Many photographers are afraid for one reason or another. Fear is a good thing. It separates sheep from goats. The fearful proceed, the non-fearful are zombies.
 

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"Compositional metrics" don't worry photographers or other artists.

yes they do,

they are on the minds or plenty of artists of all types from architects and set designers to sculptors, painters and photographers
not really sure where you are getting your information from. maybe composition doesn't matter to you.
sure reasons why are important but they have nothing to do with composition rather personal motives

what artists ( aside from yourself ) have specifically told you, they don't concern themselves with composition ,,
biographies and autobiographies to quote are OK too ..
you live near kirk gittings how about asking him ? LOL
thanks
 
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"Compositional metrics" don't worry photographers or other artists.

Mate, that's bullshit.
How about less philosophising and theorising and generally much less faux sage-like responses, and more into active practice? I suggest you pick up a camera some day and learn the fundamentals of photography.
 
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Arklatexian

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If all those great suggestion fail, you can just by a postcard. I try all the time to make my puctures look like the ones in the travel brochures(honestly) but I fail miserably ......
At one time in the USA, there were companies who would come into our area and photograph it to make postcards. However it was the locals who lived here who made post cards that sold. I think you must live in an area to make the best cards. Remember the old adage: " f8 and be there". The local is always there I(or should be)..........Regards!
 
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