Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to compose and edit photographs. Part 1

After a lifetime's fascination with the photographic image Dr A wants to share some stuff with you. He knows 3 things for sure:

1. Picture composition has rules (like musical composition).

2. There are lots of them, but they are all logical, fun to learn, and make a difference to the appeal of ordinary photographs.

3. Only experience teaches you to compose pictures in the camera automatically, but a few seconds thinking is worth a thousand pictures - or something like that. AND most can be improved with simple editing.

This is going to be a regular column, and Dr A wants to see your pictures here for possible fixing. (providing they are not better than his. CB)

Just as good music is not random noise, good pictures are not random images. They share certain things - rhythm, form, balance, harmony, and line (melody).

Music is a pain when the rhythm is wrong. Music can be just rhythm - Indian music can take this to the ultimate. Pictures can have rhythm too.

Musical form is always there, it is hidden away most of the time, but your brain knows if it is badly wrong. Balance is part of form; it works quietly to make a musical piece feel better. I use 'form' in pictures to mean the overall design, made up of details.

Harmony can be totally overridden in modern music - Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, etc. introduced discord bit by bit until now some discord is the new harmony. . By 'harmony' in pictures I mean how the main shapes seem to 'live together'.

Melodic line is not fashionable at the moment in music, but lines are important in pictures. Note, lines include edges.

The Brain. I use this word to mean the grey matter that receives the input of sight and sound. This brain likes to tell you what to think as well. Call it ‘instinct’ if you like, but it makes you feel uneasy, or satisfied with an image without your knowing the reason. An artist can manipulate this process – a great artist can do this greatly.

We are just going to post modest pictures and try to explain the thinking (and the instincts) behind them in terms of COMPOSITION only. Dr A is a beginner at photo-editing, but the simple tools can really do wonders for any photograph that you might want to improve.

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