A Crash Course in Photographic Composition

Frank Wang, Photographer

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4 Lessons (2h 16m)
    • 1. Intro to Composition

      23:08
    • 2. Geometry and Lines

      27:47
    • 3. Optional: Previously recorded Q&A Video

      57:03
    • 4. Putting It All Together

      28:17
31 students are watching this class

Project Description

Create five photos per unit that utilize the concepts in the videos

Intro to Composition

  1. Familiarize yourself with great photogaphers

    It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the work of the following (very) famous photographers. I've selected these photographers becuase their work exhibits strong compositional elements.  There are many more, but this is a good start. 

  2. Take images using concepts learned from module 1's lecture.  

    Take images using concepts learned from module 1's lecture.  Pay particular attention to the rule of thirds, foregrounds and backgrounds, and try and utilize frames within a frame. 

    Golden Ratio

    Foreground/Background

    Frame Within A Frame

  3. Composition tips

    There are a couple of tips I wanted to share as you all start shooting your project images this week.  These tips are less about compositional concepts and more about the smaller details in the image.  In no particular order:

    • Simplicity is powerful. Sometimes less "stuff" in your frame makes for more effective composition.  If there are objects in the frame that don't add to the composition, try and find an angle that excludes it.  If an object is not intentionally part of your composition, it could very well distract the viewer.  
    • Watch for distracting elements in your frame.  Related to the above.  You may have a picture with a distinct forground and background, but be careful that the elements in your image don't distract from your subject.  If you have a particularly busy forground, it may distract from your subject.  Consider ways to isolate your subject, with either physical space, color, differences in light / dark (we'll cover this in the 3rd module but worth mentioning now). 
    • Be wary of tangents / merges.  The easiest way to describe a "tangent" or "merge" is when you take a picture of your friend only to realize that he or she has a tree growing out of their head.  This is really an extension of the above and related to subject isloation. 
    • In an effort to crop your image to be better compositionally, be careful not to let your desire to crop it to a perfect golden ratio mean that you also cut off part of your subject. 
    • Consider shooting your scene "dead on", meaning instead of shooting it at an slight angle, shoot it from directly in front of it.  If there are strong horizontal lines in the image, try making sure those lines are perfectly straight left to right, and not tilted one way or another.  
    • Then, consider shooting your scene from a really extreme angle (the opposite of the above).  The idea is to be intentional about picking your angles and the way lines in your image contribute to the overall composition.
    • Try not to accomplish or capture too much in a single image.  The cliche "less is more" can be useful in photography.  Sometimes less stuff in your frame allows the subject to stand out!
    • Watch out for very bright parts of your image - the eye naturally goes to the brightest part of the image and if the brightest part is not your subject, then make sure your subject stands out in other ways. 
    • Subject Isolation - Once you've found your subject, find ways to isolate it from the background.  You can do this in two ways.  Contrast isolation - Find an area behind your subject that provides some contrast in terms of color / tones / light.   Focus isolation - You can also isolate your subject using shallow depth of field, typically achieved by using large lens apertures or longer focal lengths (or both).

  4. Upload your 1st photo set (5 Photos)

    PIck your 5 favorite photos you've taken and upload them to the project page.  Remember to include a number or title for each image along with a sentence or two explaining your thought process behind each photo. 

  5. Review each other's work!

    Take some time to see what your fellow classmates are doing to get some inspiration.  Provide encouragement or helpful feedback on their work!

Geometry & Lines

  1. Take images using concepts learned from unit 2's lecture.  

    Take images using concepts learned from unit 2's lecture.  Look for geometric shapes and lines while shooting!

    Diagonal Lines

    Vertical Lines

    Horizantal Lines

    Leading Lines

    Perspective

  2. Upload your 2nd photo set (5 photos)

    Upload your 5 best photos to the project page.  Don't forget to leave feedback on your classmate's projects!

  3. Review each other's work!

    Take some time to see what your fellow classmates are doing to get some inspiration.  Provide encouragement or helpful feedback on their work!

Putting It All Togther

  1. Take more pictures!

    Take pictures utilizing concepts from this unit's lecture.  Look for ways to incorporate symmetry and abstraction in your images.  Look for ways to incorporate silhouettes as a compositional element. 

    Symmetry

    Contrast

    Silhouettes

  2. Upload your final photo set (5 photos)

    Upload your 5 best photos to the project page for feedback.  And don't forget to leave feedback on your classmate's projects!

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