It’s that thing that sets the artist apart… and the thing about learning photography that makes me most uncomfortable.
I was able to put off worrying about it while I was learning basic mechanics. I suppose that I could continue to ignore it indefinitely, but I think it’s about time to confront the monster. It appears that I’m not the only one: my friend Deb has been blogging about it recently, and Scott has issued a Rule of Thirds assignment.
I’ve read about – and to some degree, have incorporated – things such as the rule of thirds, the golden mean, converging lines, “get it out of the middle”, etc. In the class I took last fall, I learned to keep the composition simple and to crop out unnecessary stuff. Lately, I’ve occasionally received “great composition!” comments on some of the pictures I’ve posted on Shuttercal and Flickr. But still, I don’t feel like I have a real grip on the topic.
I think the way that I need to approach this is to pose some questions – self-Socratic questions which don’t necessarily have right answers. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts. Here are a few, for starters:
- Is there such as thing as bad composition? Ummm, yeah, I think so, but to some degree it may also be a matter of taste. In Googling “bad composition,” the examples I found often either had other things wrong with them, or were from know-it-alls dissing the masters. In most cases, instead of using the word “bad”, I’d say the composition has room for improvement.
- How would you define good composition?I found this great quote online: Good composition leads the eye where you want it to go and bad composition distracts your eye from where you want it to go.
- How can you ensure good composition?True artists will almost always nail it. For the rest of us, I think it’s more a matter of try, try again. Every once in a great long while, I’ll bring up a shot for post-processing and think – THAT’S IT! Boom! In most cases, that happens after I’ve spent a long time working the shot.
- Is there always a good composition available for a given subject? I think the answer is: maybe. There are certainly some people who can create interesting art from mundane scenes, just by framing things in a way that others didn’t think of. But can they make anything interesting? Unknown.
Most of what I know about composition comes from reading stuff online, or from bits and pieces I picked up in last fall’s class. I’m considering taking Kent Weakly’s class on composition but would like to find out more about it first. Do you have any other suggestions for good resources?