Oxford School of Photography

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Category Archives: Composition

How to Pause and Learn to Make Fewer and Better Photos

The question I always impress on my students that they should ask themselves is Why? Why are you taking this picture, interrogate the reasons that made you stop and look and raise your camera. If you can understand why that will help you to point the camera at the right bit of your subject but also tell you how to set the camera. I ask my students to employ a simple technique which I describe as close, closer, still closer. By looking harder, pausing and thinking about why, taking a picture, then getting closer and doing the same you learn how to understand what about the subject moves you

Launceston Gorge Tas Au © Keith Barnes

Launceston Gorge Tas Au © Keith Barnes

This article on Digital Photo School A Post By: Kim Manley Ort explains this in a different way but I totally agree with the ideas here. If you want your pictures to improve read this and learn what it is that makes a photographer.

At the end of each year do you find yourself with thousands of photos and wonder what to do with them all? Or wondering if you should even keep them? This is a lament that I often hear in my photography workshops and have experienced the same problem myself. Sometimes, this is a result of being too quick to click. You see something that excites you photographically and proceed to snap away, hoping that you’ll cover all the bases and that at least one shot will be a keeper. Sometimes this works and you do get one that you like, but often you find yourself disappointed because there isn’t even one that truly reflects your experience.

Luna Park, Sydney,Aus ©Keith Barnes

Luna Park, Sydney,Aus ©Keith Barnes

Kim Manley Ort says But what if you could take a different approach to your photography? One where you make fewer and also perhaps better photos? I’ve found that the simple practice of pausing before clicking the shutter can make a huge difference in the quantity and quality of your photographic output and enjoyment…..read more here

Peacock tail ©Keith Barnes

Peacock tail ©Keith Barnes

Pausing is the practice of checking in with oneself. When something stops you and you want to make a photograph, take a moment to notice what’s happening and ask yourself a few questions.

  • What do I see, smell, and hear?
  • What stopped me?
  • Was it a colour, shape, or texture?
  • What am I feeling? What do I like about it and why?
  • Does it mirror something going on in my life at this moment?

If this sounds like navel-gazing to you, believe me, it’s not. Many photographers over the years have said that a photograph says something about the creator. Your choice of subject matter reveals a lot about you. By becoming more aware of why you photograph what you do, you will gradually uncover your photographic vision…..read on

 

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Photography Courses For 2015

well we have done it again, created a new course to get you making better pictures. It has the most unwieldy title because we couldn’t think of anything better, sorry.

Basics of Landscape, Travel, Flower and Black and White Digital Photography

The course is based on our observations that these are the main subject areas along with portraiture, (which is covered in our separate Portrait Photography course), that interest our students. Each session we look at one of the four subject areas.

This course is aimed at students who already have a good understanding of how to use their cameras. There will be no instruction on camera use therefore it might be worthwhile taking our Understanding Your DSLR course first if you tend to use the fully auto mode when photographing. All areas of photography rely on technical and visual skills and although there will be references to camera use and composition there will be no in depth discussion of these areas and if you do not understand basic compositional methods our Composition In Photography course would be a great asset to you. Get full details here

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We now have our course schedule sorted out for the next term, here are the dates

Understanding Your DSLR Camera Evening Class £85 Start Dates: 26.01.2015;  11.03.2015

Understanding Your DSLR Camera Saturday Morning Class £85 Start Date: 07.03.2015

1 Day Understanding Your DSLR Camera £95 Dates:  01.02.2015; 01.03.2015; 29.03.2015

Intermediate Photography £97 Start Date 26.02.2015

Flash Photography £85 Start date 05.02.2015

Understanding Lightroom £85 Start Date 03.02.2015

Introduction to Photoshop and PS Elements £97 Start Date 25.02.2015

Composition In Photography – Seeing Pictures £85 Start Date 03.02.2015

Portrait Photography £85 Start Date 10.03.2015

Basics of Landscape, Travel, Flower and B&W Photography Start Date 09.03.2015  £85

 

10 pro tips you can use in any genre of photography

From Digital Camera World, words of wisdom, or it’s obvious really but still worth saying

It doesn’t matter whether you like to shoot landscapes, portraits or still life photography, these ten tips from our guest bloggers at Photoventure  will help you improve your images time and time again…..

©Jane Buekett

©Jane Buekett

1. Keep it simple

As a rule it’s best to keep things as simple as possible. In the studio this may mean using two lights (or even just one) rather than three, or including fewer props, but it’s also a useful thing to remember when composing landscapes and still life.

Avoid complex, confusing scenes and look for compositions that have clean lines and nicely spaced elements.

When large format cameras were more common, many photographers claimed the fact that they showed the scene upside down and laterally reversed helped them improve their composition because they stopped seeing the subject as a recognisable object and instead saw a collection of shapes to be photographed in an attractive arrangement.

Modern cameras show the image correctly orientated (usually even if you review a shot and turn the camera upside-down) so you have to use your imagination to see images as shapes and patterns of light rather than objects.

See the other 9 tips here

Five Ways to Improve Your Eye for Composition

Here is another post to get you seeing and shooting better. There is no doubt the best thing you can do is to practise your photography, that doesn’t mean practising taking great pictures it means learning by repeating techniques so that when you really need them you know them by heart. Imagine you were learning the piano you wouldn’t just sit and play pieces you would practise well do the same with your photography.

This article on Digital Photography School By: Andrew S. Gibson should help you by giving you some specifics to concentrate on

An eye for composition is one of the things that elevates the work of the best photographers above the rest. One of the best ways to learn about composition is focus on applying one idea at a time. You can treat it as an exercise that will help you improve your composition skills, the same way that piano players practice scales. Here are five ideas to get you started.

#1 Use a single lens

Lenses have an enormous influence on the look of a photo, and the best way to learn exactly what effect they have is to spend some time using just one lens. Ideally it would be a prime lens, but if you have a zoom you can use a piece of tape to fix the lens to one focal length (some lenses have a locking switch you can use instead).

If you use a single focal length you will become intimately acquainted with its characteristics.

While it is useful to own multiple lenses, the ability to switch from one to another may mean that you don’t get to know any of them very well. This exercise helps overcome that tendency.

Improving Composition

Improving Composition

 #2 Work in black and white

Improving Composition

My favourite recommendation for learning more about composition is to work in black and white.

Colour is such a powerful element that it dominates most photos. It becomes more difficult to see and appreciate the underlying building blocks of composition liketexture, line, pattern and tonal contrast. Take colour away and all these things become easier to see; once you are aware of them, you can start using them to improve the composition of your photos.

For example, in the black and white photo above, did you notice the shapes in the photo? I’m referring to the white rectangle of the cinema screen (yes, that’s what it is), the shapes of the Chinese letters and the diamond pattern in the stones on the ground. All these things are easier to see in black and white.

Do you want to see the next three ideas…..go here

Fine art photography: what you need to shoot amazing photo projects at home

From the vaults of Digital Camera World

I am not sure fine art photography can be shoehorned into such a simplistic idea as shown here but I do think these are examples of what you can do, and how to do it when the opportunity to explore the world with your camera is limited

Why shoot fine art photography? Easy. It’s the sheer pleasure you get from creating, shooting and post-producing fine art photos at home, especially as the weather gets colder and the nights draw in.

In this fine art photography tutorial we’ll show you how to find, set up and shoot amazing still life photography subjects at home at no cost.

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Images by Ben Birchall

A loose definition of fine art photography is any image that’s taken for the pure purpose of viewing pleasure. Not for commercial or editorial use and not for illustration.

Fine art is total voyeuristic photography and the end product, whether you use it on your website or get it printed and hung in your living room, will be a powerful statement of your own original interpretation of photographic art.

The best way to approach fine art photography and the main difference from most other disciplines is that there’s no brief to fulfil. You’re in control of the shooting environment and it really does inspire completely original creativity.

The easiest place to start looking for ideas is the garden shed or kitchen. There you’ll find unusual objects and props that will inspire creative thought.

Why not spend a morning at a charity shops or garage/car-boot sale, looking for inspiration? Even rusty nails can become fine art using the camera tips and photo composition techniques you’ll see here. Try basing your composition, lighting and even your post production around your props – and you’ll find the process is really much more fun!

What makes a great fine art image

Interesting subject matter is vital, along with careful attention to clean and balanced composition. Visual puns can raise the fine art bar, such as the ‘nutcracker’ shot at the top of this page, along with artistic, textured layers and mono work in the digital darkroom.

 

Want more, then go here….

6 classic composition techniques every photographer should know

From Digital Camera World six of the best. We teach these and more in our Composition course

01. Rule of thirds

Yes, it’s an old chestnut, and yes, all rules are there to be broken, but just as Eric Clapton had to learn his chords and scales before he could improvise, you have to have a sense of compositional conventions before you can start to creatively break them. The idea behind the rule of thirds is simple.

Mentally divide the scene in front of you into thirds, or activate a handy grid on your viewfinder. Then place your subject near the intersecting lines of one of these thirds, and you should get a nicer composition than if the subject was placed dead centre.

If all this sounds too mathematical, just keep your subject more towards the edge of the frame rather than plonked in the middle. Used well, the rule of thirds can really enhance an image, but try not to make it a religion, or all your shots will look the same.

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02. Leading lines

Leading lines is another classic composition technique, particularly in landscape photography. Basically, you make use of lines or other shapes to lead in the eye. You could use a road or path, or even shadows on a landscape.

A classic example of leading lines would be allowing a desert highway to create a sense of depth and distance, rather than just taking a flat shot of the desert and the sky.

A winding path going up a hill or cliff is another classic application. The idea is that you are drawing the viewer into the scene. Be careful, though, that the leading line doesn’t act as a distraction – it’s all very well using a road but watch out for vans parked on it, or litter bins!

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do you know the other 4? go here to see

5 Fundamental Elements of Great Photographs

Yes I agree with all of these points made by

I’m a freelance travel, culture and documentary photographer based in the Philippines. My passion lies in creating images that communicate a strong sense of place and cultural awareness in unique, challenging situations. You can see my work at www.jacobimages.com

There are five common elements that great images typically have; Good use of light, color, a captivating moment, correct composition for the given situation, and the photographers choice of distance to their subject. Many times good images will use one or two of these elements, but lack strength in the others.

I will be the first to admit that it is difficult to have all of these elements come together in one frame. Rarely do I take what would be considered a great photograph, but by aiming to capture all of these elements makes me strive to be better. Essentially, these are five tools we have as photographers to work with allowing us to create higher quality photographs. If we start to recognize and become more aware of how to best use these elements we will start to make more great images rather than good images. Bring them all together correctly under one frame and you will have something really special.

1. Light – Light is the fundamental element all photographs need because it illuminates the scene or subject. Whether it be natural or artificial light the quality and direction of light is what’s important. Light helps to create a particular mood within the photograph and can bring emphasis to key elements within a frame. Likewise, light can help create depth and textures in an image by creating a mix of highlights and shadows.

Everyone knows there have been countless books and tutorials on this subject and this article isn’t the place to go into depth with this. However, we should recognize that light is probably the most important tool we have to use as photographers to create better quality and beautiful images.

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2. Color – Like light, color helps to set the mood of an image and can play a significant role in touching the viewer on an emotional level. Color is one of the main factors responsible for making a photo feel mysterious, exciting, sad, or gloomy. Evoking emotions is important in creating strong images and color is one of our primary tools to do this. Again, this is an in-depth topic which this article will not go into, but be thoughtful that by using appropriate colors in our images we can better convey different emotions and make a stronger impact on the viewer.

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want to see what the other 3 essentials are….go here 

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

From Digital Camera World This is a good tutorial and echoes some of what we teach on our Composition Course – Seeing Pictures which starts on Thursday 9th, there are still places if you are interested. What our course does which this tutorial doesn’t do, and the clue is in the title of our course, is that we relate the basics of composition to the work of the truly great photographers. We introduce you to the work of some of the most outstanding photographers of the last 100 years. Learning to see is as important as seeing through the viewfinder. If you do not live near Oxford this on line tutorial will have to do for you though

In photography, it’s not just what you shoot that counts – the way that you shoot it is crucial, too. Poor photo composition can make a fantastic subject dull, but a well-set scene can create a wonderful image from the most ordinary of situations. With that in mind, we’ve picked our top 10 photo composition ‘rules’ to show you how to transform your images, as well as offered some of our best photography tips from the experts who do it on a daily basis…….

Don’t feel that you’ve got to remember every one of these laws and apply them to each photo you take. Instead, spend a little time practising each one in turn and they’ll become second nature. You’ll soon learn to spot situations where the different rules can be applied to best effect.

Photo composition doesn’t have to be complicated. There are all sorts of theories about the ‘Rule of Thirds’ and more complex ‘Golden Mean’, for example. But if you pay too much attention to strict formulae, your photos will lose any kind of spontaneity.

In the real world, you’ll be working with a wide range of subjects and scenes, and this requires a more open-minded approach. What works for one photo won’t necessarily work for another.

The key thing is to understand how all the decisions you make about composition can affect the way a shot looks and how people perceive your photos. The way you frame a shot, choose a focal length or position a person can make all the difference (check out our Photography Cheat Sheet series for quick fixes to some of these problems).

Technical know-how is very important in photography, of course, and even in some aspects of photo composition. But to take great shots you need visual knowledge too. Here are 10 key things to look out for…

Here is a taste of the article

Photo Composition Tip 6: Use diagonals

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

Horizontal lines lend a static, calm feel to a picture, while vertical ones often suggest permanence and stability. To introduce a feeling of drama, movement or uncertainty, look for diagonal lines instead.

You can need nothing more than a shift in position or focal length to get them – wider angles of view tend to introduce diagonal lines because of the increased perspective; with wide-angle lenses you’re more likely to tilt the camera up or down to get more of a scene in.

You can also introduce diagonal lines artificially, using the ‘Dutch Tilt’ technique. You simply tilt the camera as you take the shot. This can be very effective, though it doesn’t suit every shot and is best used sparingly (see our 44 essential digital camera tips and tricks).

Why it works…

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

see the whole 10 tips here

20 Expressive Negative Space Photography – Negative is Positive

This article from a graphic design website explains how the use of negative space within an image can make a positive expression. We cover these subject areas in our Composition Course – Seeing Pictures

“There are several things that graphic designers can learn from other professions. Photography is one such field that shares similar techniques with graphic design. Minimalism and clarity of work are both common traits of graphic designing and photography. Likewise, one of the best tricks of incorporating minimalism in an artwork is using negative space.

Negative space is the space around an object of attention. Although some might argue that negative space is wasted space, the absence of content does not mean the absence of interest. On the contrary, negative space generates attention as it puts a stronger emphasis on the subject. It also helps in arousing the emotions of the object in focus.”  See more pictures and read more here

 

 

15 Thoughts on Fine Art Photography Composition

By  on Lightstalking

What are the most important aspects of composing a Fine Art Photograph?  The answer to this question certainly varies from photographer to photographer because each of us places more importance on some aspects than on others.  What follows is what I personally consider to be the most important aspects of Composition….

Much of what Alan says I think is fundamentally true and good starting points to think about photography as a medium for art. I do think that art is a much wider subject than can be addressed by consideration of composition, the definition between fine art and photography as a medium for art is a strongly debated. Just search ‘define fine art photography’ to see how difficult it is to nail a definition. Wiki says

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism, which provides a visual account for news events, and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.

We don’t have to believe or agree with everything in the Wiki world though.

So basically is anything that is not photographed for the purposes of making money art? But that can’t be correct, just look at a site like Flickr to recognise that most people using cameras are not artists they are at best recordists.

These are questions we pose of our students in our Intermediate Photography course, our aim is to stretch their understanding of photography and to encourage them to incorporate these ideas within their own work. To help them to stop just recording what is front of them and to start using their cameras as a means of expressing their ideas.

Here are  of Alan’s suggestions about making images with the intention of creating fine art. As I say I don’t disagree with any of these but I don’t think adhering to a set of rules can create art, fine or otherwise. I think that art is in the intention of the creator, therefore if you intend to make an image that is more than mere representation then you are attempting to create something with art at it’s foundation. Using Alan’s suggestions may certainly help.

Rhine 2 by Andreas Gursky; this is the most expensive photograph ever sold and is considered by some criteria as a pinnacle  of photographic art. What do you think?

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Click Here: 15 Thoughts on Fine Art Photography Composition by Alain Briot (With Photos)