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07-07-2011, 05:30 AM   #16
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I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. G. Marx

I don't belong to one nor do any of my contemporaries. I do know people in camera clubs; they come around once a year pushing their calenders full of nice photos...

If I were to join a club, it would probably be a Film Camera club. IMO, you'll learn more about photography shooting film, developing and printing. It will allow you the opportunity to actually think about what you're about to shoot, etc etc etc... Digital photography is a fantastic medium and often taken too lightly because on the surface it seems way to easy. It is and it isn't, one one hand anyone can take a good photo and one the other hand, it's your "keeper" average that counts and too often one's average is too low, and digital is to blame for that...

I was taught long ago, it (art in general) should have a foreground, mid ground and background, have a message or tell a story. Personally, I compose the way I read, from left to right, having the main subject just left of center (or right of center if you like), and take into account what is behind the subject. What is not the main subject will often have a greater impact on your over all image than the subject itself if you are not careful...

This past weekend, I was speaking to a student about a Digital/Photo class. She proceeded to tell me how difficult her most recent assignment is; spelling your name out with photos. For me that would mean I would have to simply find subjects that looked like the letters R I C K... easy or hard, don't know, but I do know some vision and photography skills will be needed, looking beyond the obvious, technically using proper depth of field to come up with a letter, etc etc etc...

My real advice, Left of Center

07-07-2011, 05:52 AM   #17
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Of course I have to point you to my favourite article on this subject... as posted in the forum..

Composition for beginners.
07-07-2011, 06:04 AM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by theunartist Quote
I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. G. Marx

I don't belong to one nor do any of my contemporaries. I do know people in camera clubs; they come around once a year pushing their calenders full of nice photos...

If I were to join a club, it would probably be a Film Camera club. IMO, you'll learn more about photography shooting film, developing and printing. It will allow you the opportunity to actually think about what you're about to shoot, etc etc etc... Digital photography is a fantastic medium and often taken too lightly because on the surface it seems way to easy. It is and it isn't, one one hand anyone can take a good photo and one the other hand, it's your "keeper" average that counts and too often one's average is too low, and digital is to blame for that...

I was taught long ago, it (art in general) should have a foreground, mid ground and background, have a message or tell a story. Personally, I compose the way I read, from left to right, having the main subject just left of center (or right of center if you like), and take into account what is behind the subject. What is not the main subject will often have a greater impact on your over all image than the subject itself if you are not careful...

This past weekend, I was speaking to a student about a Digital/Photo class. She proceeded to tell me how difficult her most recent assignment is; spelling your name out with photos. For me that would mean I would have to simply find subjects that looked like the letters R I C K... easy or hard, don't know, but I do know some vision and photography skills will be needed, looking beyond the obvious, technically using proper depth of field to come up with a letter, etc etc etc...

My real advice, Left of Center
I'm with Rick, not a member of a camera club (though the toronto one is well established and has some excellent competitions from what i've seen)
Film is an excellent tool for learning though. First it costs money to use so you tend to take a little more time thinking about the shot. At the beginning it's good to take notes where possible so you know how you got the shot. My best work tends to come when I approach Digital like film (and as time goes on you develop an 'eye' so to speak
And Rico's suggestions are excellent. Spend time with art books - or better yet in galleries studying the images (ie stop and take time to analyze a painting or a photograph for what makes it work - don't race through the gallery like it's a competition like many people do)
There are a number of compositional rules that help (ie rule of thirds) but rules are made to be broken as well
I find that shooting in b/w helps a lot. B/W relies heavily on how well composed a shot is (not pretty colours to carry it) - the benefit is what works really well in b/w transfers well to colour
Second Rio's suggestion of just studying the effect of various aspect ratios and how they affect the scene is excellent (and a pretty long standing trick I've been known to hold up my hands forming a square etc to do just that - ever see a movie director at work they carry a viewing lens that lets them see in the aspect they are shooting
But Flickr is really not a great tool. Studying the "interesting stream won't help much because while many shots are well composed many are not and what get's them to interesting is something else
07-07-2011, 07:32 AM   #19
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What does shooting film have to do with learning composition? I agree that shooting film can help with learning how to judge exposure...but composition? I just don't see it. I think the instant feedback of digital would help a lot more.

07-07-2011, 07:35 AM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Of course I have to point you to my favourite article on this subject... as posted in the forum..

Composition for beginners.
And that is an excellent article and thread. If I may be immodest... [who, me?] here is what I posted there:
...art started without rules. Rules are formulated when artists note how audiences react to their work, and then go applause-grabbing or patron-seeking. Compositional paradigms may change with time, although Euro-centric page layout / display typography (composition) has been remarkably stable for a few centuries.

I try for a simple compositional technique: Find something interesting, and put it where it will be noticed. That may mean using some rule of 2nds / 3rds / 4ths / whatever, and/or strong verticals / horizontals / diagonals / curves / circles / whatever, and/or reflections / responses / counterpoints, and/or (de)emphasizing color / tone / texture / contrast / acuity / whatever. Each rule has the opportunity to void some other rule. In other words, find a rule and break it.

A trick I learned in my TLR days: Print thin compositional templates on pieces of film that fit over the finder's groundglass. Load a template, then find a scene that fits it. Alternatively, use a grease pencil to sketch a template onto the groundglass. FORCE obedience to the rules!

But mostly I just absorb zillions of images, get ideas of what works, internalize the paradigms. Then when looking through a finder and a composition gels, SNAP! Or move things around until the comp is right. And in PP, crop crop crop.
And where is a good fun place to study composition? COMIC BOOKS! Or Graphic Novels, if you will. Some are essentially storyboard layouts for films. Study closely how artists structure the images, where your eye is drawn, what is emphasized, etc. You'll see many different compositional rules applied and broken. And here is a challenge: Pick some favorite comix frames and replicate them photographically. X-men or Tijuana Bibles, it doesn't matter -- bring a drawing to life!
07-07-2011, 07:36 AM   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
What does shooting film have to do with learning composition? I agree that shooting film can help with learning how to judge exposure...but composition? I just don't see it. I think the instant feedback of digital would help a lot more.
With film you tend to slow down and think about the shot more. my experience in any case. thinking about the shot more will lead to better composition
maybe i'm showing my age because i learned on (and still shoot ) film and am trying to suck another user into the club to keep production of film alive
07-07-2011, 07:40 AM   #22
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BTW if you want to force some compositional standards get a split prism with a rule of thirds grid, and use a mf lens for a while
there are a few prisms like this available
both my K7 and My medium format camera have this type of glass (i ignore it as often as i use it, but it does focus the mind on a very standard rule
07-07-2011, 08:22 AM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by eddie1960 Quote
With film you tend to slow down and think about the shot more. my experience in any case. thinking about the shot more will lead to better composition
maybe i'm showing my age because i learned on (and still shoot ) film and am trying to suck another user into the club to keep production of film alive
lol I hear ya. You sound like some of the guys in my camera club. For what it's worth, I'm an old film guy, too. But I had to re-think my priorities a few years back when someone asked my advice on how to teach someone about photography. Back in our day, unless a person knew how to expose film properly, they simply couldn't progress to learning composition because all their shots would turn out crappy. These days, the digital cameras get it pretty darned close most of the time, so I think it might be faster to teach composition first, then teach how to fine-tune things through adjusting exposure.

07-07-2011, 08:39 AM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
... These days, the digital cameras get it pretty darned close most of the time, so I think it might be faster to teach composition first, then teach how to fine-tune things through adjusting exposure.
That is exactly the problem with Digital. If we were made NOT to look at our results till we got back to a computer, and our "score and reputation" depended on that 1Gb card of images, believe me, you would take your time composing and thinking about what you really want to take a photo of and how...

Most digital shooters just see a nice/pretty/compelling subject and begin to fire away with no thought about composing the entire frame etc... (only to be disappointed when they finally see their efforts on a computer screen)
07-07-2011, 09:07 AM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by eddie1960 Quote
With film you tend to slow down and think about the shot more. my experience in any case. thinking about the shot more will lead to better composition
maybe i'm showing my age because i learned on (and still shoot ) film and am trying to suck another user into the club to keep production of film alive
Look at old photos - photos from your average punter, not a maestro. Most of them range from poor through bad to awful. Exposures are often way off, composition almost always is.

Using film doesn't of itself makes a person's images better, it just makes them more expensive. What makes them better is that person wanting to make them better and being willing to think about what they are doing, exposure, composition and post-processing-wise. And also the willingness to take, consider and maybe act on critique on their images, which is what the competitions at camera clubs are all about.

I have no idea what the situation outside the UK is, but almost everyone in the camera clubs I've belonged to started with film, ditto the judges.
07-07-2011, 09:11 AM   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Of course I have to point you to my favourite article on this subject... as posted in the forum..

Composition for beginners.
Normhead - thanks for the reference, a lot of thoughful discussion in that article.

QuoteOriginally posted by eddie1960 Quote
I'm with Rick, not a member of a camera club (though the toronto one is well established and has some excellent competitions from what i've seen)
................
But Flickr is really not a great tool. Studying the "interesting stream won't help much because while many shots are well composed many are not and what get's them to interesting is something else
Hmmm...its turning out to be a very good thread. First of all, the book that NicholeAus and I recommended by Michael Freeman "the Photographer's eye-Composition and Design" is a very thoughtful discussion of content and has nothing in it about camera operation.

Beyond that, I've been to 2 different photography clubs, and talked to members from a 3rd. They very from each other quite a lot. Summarized below:

a. Competitive, very regulated - I have to admit that some competition drives and motivates people to produce and work on their photos. But some clubs are so competitive that it seems shallow in some ways. I believe that art is about a lot more than collecting ribbons.

b. Laid back, no formal rules, family snapshots make it into the mix, community oriented. in a small town, they can help you network.

c. Film club - Fewer of these around. Emphasis on BW and composition. Can become overly restrictive in their scope. Composition feedback helpful.

So there are all kinds of photo clubs. I currently belong to the b. club. Its been enormously helpful to me in learning software (Lightroom) and in connecting to community projects that i wouldn't have access to individually.

In my area, there are getting to be more co-op galleries than privately owned galleries. And in small towns at least, they always seem to have a monthly "art walk" evening where one gets to walk around with others and see the new month's shows. Lots of fun and interesting-i always attend if i'm in town. Don't limit yourself to photographic art in these galleries - you can learn from other types.

At the co-op galleries, the artists often spend time clerking at the desk to reduce labor costs. Often i'll walk in and ask if the on-duty artist has anything in the shop at the time. I've had some interesting conversations about art and probably saved some artists from some boring hours. If business calls for their attention, i always excuse myself so as not to impose.

Last edited by philbaum; 07-07-2011 at 09:30 AM.
07-07-2011, 09:16 AM - 1 Like   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by theunartist Quote
That is exactly the problem with Digital. If we were made NOT to look at our results till we got back to a computer, and our "score and reputation" depended on that 1Gb card of images, believe me, you would take your time composing and thinking about what you really want to take a photo of and how...
I don't totally agree with this...and it's a lesson I learned a decade or two before digital came along. The best workshop I ever attended made a point of getting film processed and back to the students as quickly as possible. They wanted us to be able to review our results while we could still remember what we'd done. I think that one of the reasons it took so long to learn film is because it was usually a week or two between the times we took our pics and when we saw the results. Instant feedback can be a tremendous learning tool if it's used right, I believe.
07-07-2011, 09:37 AM   #28
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I think film made me less willing to take chances. Digital did not suddenly make me a spray-and-pray photographer either.

I think composition should be easy to learn. As pointed out in this thread, there's no shortage of examples around. They don't even need to be good examples; just identify why they are bad and how you'd change them. Practice. Look around. Adjust for your personal learning style.

A library probably has stacks of books on the subject. All the books on film photography are perfectly relevant for composition, and always on the shelves.
07-07-2011, 09:38 AM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
I don't totally agree with this...and it's a lesson I learned a decade or two before digital came along. The best workshop I ever attended made a point of getting film processed and back to the students as quickly as possible. They wanted us to be able to review our results while we could still remember what we'd done. I think that one of the reasons it took so long to learn film is because it was usually a week or two between the times we took our pics and when we saw the results. Instant feedback can be a tremendous learning tool if it's used right, I believe.
This is where i'll agree, the one huge benefit to Digital in the learning curve is fresh feedback while the shooting of the original is still fresh in our minds. I would have saved a lot of money on film and developer learning exposure if i could have reviewed this quickly.
As for the comment about reviewing how lousy some old film shots were in general from Cats Five above I'd say the same holds true for Digital. the vast majority of shots taken like film are pretty crappy (in fact I think there are more crappy shots out there because cost isn't a factor)
The Caveat is are you a snap shooter like the bulk of people or do you want to learn how to craft a good photo (notice the word craft because I believe you can be taught the craft of photography, but the art of photography is another thing and requires something that i don't think can be taught - i was taught to play bass as a youth, never learned the art of it though had no talent in that direction)

If you have the desire and some talent then learning the craft will allow you to express the art within yourself. If you lake the artistic talent to be truly different and creative - and i think this applies to almost all photographers BTW myself included and most of us on the forum the craft will allow us to take consistently good photos but probably not consistently WOW - I wish of course this was different but things are what they are)
07-07-2011, 06:36 PM   #30
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Thanks a lot all .. this indeed has proven to be a very interesting thread. I'm having a re-read through it all again...

And thanks Normhead & rest of contributors for that Composition thread - also trawling through it now too.

Really appreciate the input - and its been fascinating watching it unfold
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