Photography great Ansel Adams famously said that great photos are not “taken” — they are made. One of the most crucial and foundational elements of making great art is having a solid understanding of the elements of composition.
While some photographers and students have an innate sense or intuitive gift for composition, just about every photographer can benefit from learning more about the essentials from an experienced Pro. That’s where the Ben Long Photography Composition course from the Lynda.com Foundations of Photography series can be extremely helpful.
Merging Form and Function with Composition
You can photograph the most interesting or intriguing subject, but if the photo isn’t composed well, the image will still fall flat. Conversely, a well-composed “mundane” subject can be elevated to fine art in a photograph.
In this comprehensive course, author and professional photographer Ben Long explores key compositional concepts like the rule of thirds as well as natural viewer eye movement through different photo compositions. The author stresses how the way the eye sees differs from how the camera captures objects, and the photographer must strike a balance between the two. Point of view is key, and photographers are encouraged throughout this course to look inside of themselves while shooting as much as they look out at the world around them.
The geometry of shapes as well as the influence of light and color are all key components of composition. Yes, composition can be enhanced and improved using post-production techniques, and Long goes into a number of those. However, it’s always best to learn and gain some mastery of the “rules” before breaking them, and this course offers a full spectrum of must-know information.
Some of the details covered by this course include when to go with black and white instead of color, the use of lines vs. shapes, and how symmetry and perspective can alter composition. Other topics covered include:
Weighting and “thirds.” You’ll learn how to “divide” a rectangular photo area into third on the fly for instant visual balance, as well as how to “weight” the corners in a square composition for success.
Landscapes vs. portraits. Photos of landscapes and people require different compositional considerations, and this course will assist in educating the student about them.
Technical aspects. Camera position, focal length and depth of field can all create different compositional results.
The finer points. Once the foundational basics of a composition are mapped out, considerations like the direction of the light, the presence of textures, angles, depth and negative space can be brought in as compositional elements as well.
Ultimately, composition is about guiding the viewer’s eye through the photo in a pleasing and/or impactful manner, and this course can help you to solidify the most important compositional knowledge. Looking vs. actually seeing, knowing the difference between the camera and the eye, and coming to see even “abstract” elements like light and negative space as potential compositional elements are some of the goals of this course.
Ben Long is there with you every step of the way, offering exercises and dynamic instruction to help you learn the fundamentals while gaining exposure to more advanced concepts. From the interplay of subject and background to tapping more deeply into your own point of view, you’ll come away from the course with a far richer understanding of the importance of composition as well as some common, reliable elements that all good photo compositions embody.
In this course, you’ll explore a town, photograph a hotel, and learn by example as Ben Long guides you through the learning process.