Composition

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Henricvs, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. I recently viewed an interview of Henri Cartier-Bresson in which he said he did not crop his photographs. As I understood it, he composed his images when he took them and did not improve upon them with a crop. It got me to thinking about trying to do this myself as I was, and still am, a post composition cropper. Now, I am not interested in delving into whether HCB did this or not. Really, I am only interested in the idea of better composition on the fly as a concept. For me, this little change has improved my photographic consciousness. That is to say, that I find that I am more apt to compose my photographs more deliberately than previously. This includes the framing, colors, tones, subject placement and depth of field. The result is that my post processing has changed and I spend less time on these things if any. Now don’t get me wrong, I still do it and see nothing wrong with it. I am just curious what others do. What are ya’lls thoughts on this concept?

    Best,
    Henry
     
  2. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I only shoot film, so I'm naturally deliberate in choosing my subjects LOL. Usually, I'm in New Orleans' French Quarter, leisurely walking up and down the streets, mostly looking for architectural or potentially abstract subjects or interesting store windows to shoot. The Quarter is constantly changing, so I keep shooting there more than anywhere else.

    [Unfortunately, I've been having knee problems since June, so it's been hard to walk as much as I like. As a result, it's been half a year since I've been in the Quarter. I'm limited to the neighborhood where I live for the most part, not more than a couple of blocks in any direction.]

    What I see in the viewfinder is the image I want. I rarely crop images, although if I stumble upon some sort of action where there is no time to change to a tele or wide angle lens, I'll just shoot with what I have and crop as needed. But yes, I choose my compositions carefully. If the subject can't move away, I'll come back later to get the right light I want, or bring the proper lens for what I have in mind. If it can move away (an unusual truck, for example), I'll either get the best shot I can, or I'll just wait for the next interesting scene to present itself.
     
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  3. When possible, I compose my photos as if there would be no cropping post-processing, though I did find that, initially, I was cropping things a bit too close in frame, and found that giving a bit more space was 'safer,' so to speak, even if it meant having to do some cropping afterward. Of course, there are always those times when speed supersedes composition (like trying to get that butterfly before it flutters away), or having a wider frame improves the success of getting the shot (like birds-in-flight), and in those cases, in-frame cropping isn't really something I consider as much.
     
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  4. I'm with @jordan2240 on this. I try to frame the photo I want (compositiom, perspective, etc.) but I deliberately allow some space around the 'frame I want' in the actual frame to give me a bit of room for straightening/cropping PP if I should need it. There have been a few occasions (sport photos) when - seeing a portait photo full-size on my PC screen - I've decided to crop a landscape close-up.
     
  5. Sometimes the photos I want to shoot don't match the 2/3 format. In these cases, I do crop, sometimes radically (I recently printed a 12x24 photo). But yes, as the above, I try to compose in the viewfinder if at all possible.
     
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  6. I don't see every opportunity in the moment I capture every image. I frequently discover interesting or unanticipated subjects that were not apparent when I clicked the shutter. Other times the best aspect ratio for the subject is something other than the 3x2 of my viewfinder/sensor, which necessitates PP cropping. If my telephoto is too short I'll get as close as possible and then crop in as needed to frame the subject (bears in Yellowstone come to mind). When making lens corrections manually, such as for perspective or distortion, I will need to have plenty of room in the frame to work and then crop, so I make allowances when framing the image. I do try to see the final image in my viewfinder, and changing to the D810 has forced me to be more thrifty regarding storage capacity. Even so, most images receive some minor crop adjustment to perfect them.
     
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  7. Whether film or digital, the starting point is composition. The intent can be physical or emotional, a distinct image or patterns. I am naturally inclined to use the entire field of view as my canvas Cropping comes later, if at all. That works pretty well with a 3:2 format, but not so well with square (who really likes square prints?). There should be a main subject, which may be composed of several things, such as a group of people or a strand of trees. Everything else in the picture should complement the main subject. Among the tools in your kit are perspective, focal length, selective focus and a sense of timing. It is important to consider the foreground and background, but not to forget the edges and corners.

    All this goes out the door when "the moment" is the subject. Cartier-Bresson was a master of the moment.

    Zoom lenses are great, and can be used for thoughtful composition. However my preference for non-working situations are manual primes. Sometimes a moment can be captured too, if you are patient.

    Sony A7Riii + Loxia 21/2.8.
    _7R32677_AuroraHDR2018-edit.jpg
     
  8. My starting point is more often subject, content, and/or story and the composition supports that. I do often crop after the fact, though I’ve been noticing lately that I seem to more and more be getting the framing I want in camera, which does feel good. But I’m certainly not opposed to and often greatly benefit from cropping later on, sometimes severely so if I see something that works. Sounds like a good exercise to stick with the original framing and not crop later on, at least for a period of time. Self imposed rules and restrictions can strangely increase creative potential and can surely help the learning process at times.

    I like square prints when they work.
     
  9. When I learned photography I had to present two full-frame prints, including the rebate, every class (three times a week). I learned to compose within the frame and to move (physically or by zooming) to change the view point. Fifty years later, with the latest digital technology at my fingertips, I still do it that way.

    Everything in the frame must contribute to the picture, else it detracts.
     
  10. When I used to shoot 4x5 the image was upside down and on a tripod. By the time I had things set up, focused etc, I pretty much had the shot I wanted and no cropping was needed. However, shooting small cameras of subjects in a documentary fashion where you have little control over the surroundings requires making compromises and just doing the best you can so you can later crop to make the most effective composition from each shot.
     
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  11. I'm pretty much film only. I try to compose as if the results would be final, but if a crop helps, sure, I do it without any guilt. Of the photos I have posted on this site, most - if there is cropping - are cropped only slightly.
     
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  12. This is a good example of why I wish I had been instructed instead of learning by doing.

    Best,
    Henry
     
  13. After my first roll of Kodachrome I used almost nothing else for 50 years. If a subject didn't look like it was 2X3 I didn't take the picture. Now that I'm into digital I do some cropping (and sometimes try other forms of editing).
     
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  14. When I was using film, the output had to fit common print sizes, 8x10", 4x5" and 5x7". 5x7 is the "skinniest" format, so I inked framelines on the viewfinder of my Rolleiflex. 3:2 was a better, but not perfect fit. Square fit nothing until cropped.

    When I shoot panoramas, I generally crop them to a 1:3 aspect ratio. It's easy to find frames to fit (8x24 and 12x36), and they are easier to view on a computer than a ridiculously long, skinny format. Stacked photos taken without a tripod must be cropped to eliminate variations. In either case, you must allow more space around key elements to accommodate the loss.
     
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  15. Back in college in the ... ahem ... seventies, I used to defy the laws of gravitation and often walked in the clouds. Now I follow the rules a little more and tend to get where I’m going a little faster and more directly, though I occasionally take a detour. :)

    Weston makes a good point, but it’s not a great analogy, IMO, since most people learn to walk at a young age and do it without thinking. Photography, on the other hand, can be and often is an ongoing learning process, so there may well be some important times when a photographer may be intentional and deliberate about considering a certain rule or rules of composition and shooting accordingly. Knowing the science of gravity doesn’t seem like it would be nearly as useful in order to be able to walk as knowing (and defying) some of the “rules” of composition. At least some of these “rules”, which are really guidelines and not rules, are good to know and absorb well enough to be able to use them at certain times for certain purposes and break them at other times with abandon. It’s not as easy to choose to use or break gravitational rules (astronauts excepted, lol) as it is to choose to work with or break compositional rules.
     
  16. Interestingly, the “rule” Henric was referring to is a self-imposed one about not cropping. Wasn’t that one of the tenets of the f64 group, which Weston belonged to? Weston and his cohorts flourished as they imposed strict rules on how to approach photography, especially as a reaction to Pictorialism which had previously inspired photographers in a very different direction.
     
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  17. Who said anything about a rule?
     
  18. Rules and regulations.

    Folk in uniforms are very fond of them.
     
    denny_rane likes this.
  19. Composition.

    It works for a eye. Your eye.

    Rules and regulations for the eye are for...

    Folk in uniforms who are very fond of them.
     
  20. The direction of this discussion reminds me of another recent thread about aperture and DoF, and the degree to which one may or should consciously apply a technical knowledge of aperture and DoF, or let it happen more by instinct. I believe that in both cases, and many more as well, that the concept of mastery followed by creativity is in play. We all know of artists in various fields who were trained in classic styles, materials, and techniques, who mastered that essential knowledge, and then proceeded to create new approaches to their art(s) by breaking the rules (or deviating from established standards and practices, as the case may be). This pattern is as true for we in architecture as it is in painting, sculpture, photography, and all the other representational arts.
    I think Weston's point is far more to the idea that an advanced, successful, and effective artist already has mastered the tools and techniques of his/her craft, can apply them at will, or ignore them with full understanding of the consequences that come with doing so. If I may be so bold as to include myself as such, I knowingly allow substantial latitude in framing my exposures where I intend them to be combined in a panorama. I know I will need some room to crop and refine the composite image, so I plan for it. I also try to remember to lock my exposure values so the images will composite seamlessly. Landscapes I most often compose using the full frame, while (hopefully) automatically applying my sense of what makes a good composition. Wildlife photos are more about "f/8 and be there", and making enough images that I catch that one, amazing, and unpredictable moment. Architectural images are frequently about having the right equipment (19mm PC/TS anyone?) and knowing how to apply it. Each of these is a different paradigm, but I experience greater success to the degree I am able to apply basic technical and artistic knowledge and skills. When I was an early learner it was all I could do to remember to re-set the ISO when I changed film, or to correctly execute the Nikon shuffle. I like to think that I have become a much more proficient photographer, and can use or ignore the "rules" at will with creative and effective results.
     
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