Viewfinder and composition

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by jernejk, Dec 19, 2009.

  1. I noticed the phenomenon when the P&S crowd switching from their film to digital. The digital images are much better composed.
  2. Research the following:

    Golden ratio
    Golden Mean
    Golden rectangle

    They therorize/relate to what compositions/visuals are generally perceived as aesthetically pleasing.
  3. That depends on the camera used! - I don't own any 28mm Leica M lens for the simple reason that I'd have to scan my VFs to make out the 28mm frame line. And yes, I shoot right eyed and wearing contacts... My Linhof wireframe sports finder has no optical elements at all, but once again the (in that case 90mm) WA frame isn't really entirely visible.
    If I grab an inexpensive APS DSLR with pentamirror, I see a lot of black nothing surrounding my focusing screen. With the glass prismed FF one there is still enough, just not that much of it.
    To answer the OP: Have some instructor's "Fill the frame!" running like a mantra through the back of your head till it becomes subconscious & natural. - Maybe switch to a camera / lens combo, where the frame is more visible in the VF? - Considering the tender age of this thread: Upgrade your digital!
    Became kind of history with Canon's Dual PIxel AF.

    Back in the 80s some instructors taught the following dry-swimming approach: Take a slide frame, hang it around your neck (with some lanyard) and practise framing your subjects in front of your eye.
    It can take eternally to overcome the tendency to press shutters just because you see something inside your VF, without really composing the frame around it. - Shooting prime lenses or long ends of zooms and being too rushed or lazy or poor to switch to something longer surely doesn't help with the issue.
    Analyze your habits, stick to sufficiently static subjects don't get overexcited, practise, practise and practise. Don't just click away and fill archives; sit down and work through your results; i.e. do(!) the necessary cropping for entire events and vacations till you 'll get sick of it and start filling your frame.
  4. One of the most valuable tools for a novice photographer is free and only takes a piece of cardboard and a knife to make. It is called a "viewing card." Cut a rectangular opening in the cardboard with a 2x3 ratio matching that of your 35 mm frame. A 2 inch by 3 inch opening is easy to use but a 24mm x 36mm has the advantage of telling you the lens mm by measuring the distance the card is from your eye. To use it, move it further away to zoom or closer for wider angle. It gets your itchy trigger finger off the shutter release and forces you to look around, in and out for images. There is a great b & w seascape photographer in Pt Reyes National Seashore that makes a point of going out with one for a month every year. Ernst Haas used to have his students in Yosemite do a drill involving standing in one place and finding 10 images. Try it. Use it for a week and see if it doesn't improve you vision. Also, a great tool was the fact in large format cameras, the image on the ground glass was upside down. That helped force the photographer do something important, disassociate what the objects are and see them as shapes forms and their relationship and position in the frame. Try that with the viewing card and when critiquing your shots. Last thing, before you click the shutter, do a counter clockwise "border patrol." Make a sweep around the edges for clutter or distracting or bright objects that could pull the viewers eye to the edge and out of the image. And of course, simplify, simplify simplify within the frame. Caution on wide angle lenses, they include lots of things to place properly, a narrower angle of view of a telephoto helps remove clutter.
    Wouter Willemse likes this.
  5. I think that's equivalent to the slide frame suggestion, but I agree it might be easier to assemble. :) It's also advice I should take more often myself.

    My concern, in this day and age, is that it's much easier to do (digital) cropping than it used to be (for people who weren't doing their own exhibition mounting). I'd like to say you should just make a rectangle with your fingers and look through it, but that's quite hard to do effectively. Cropping out unnecessary surroundings and "looking for the image" are good advice, I just rarely find that my images remain 3:2 these days, and there's no particular reason they should.

    I should possibly make myself some kind of sliding frame attachment so I can experiment with both framing and aspect ratio. I feel some DIY ahead over the holidays.
  6. Vialuna,

    As with others, I turn ON the grid in the viewfinder.
    The grid helps me align vertical and horizontal objects, giving me a better chance to get a level photo.
    On my Nikon F2, I used a P screen that had a vertical and horizontal line, for just this reason, to help me keep my images level. I shot slides a lot, so I did not have post processing to level the image. It had to be level in the camera.

    When you press the shutter, it is very common with some people, to press too hard and shove the right side of the camera down. This results in an image that is not level, even if you leveled the camera before the shot.

    If you are supporting the camera primarily with your right hand, rather than with the left hand under the body and lens, you could be tilting the right side of the camera down, to make it easier for your right hand to hold the camera.

    A problem that I discovered in the last few months, that I did not have when I shot film, maybe because I am older.
    My left eye is looking all around, my right eye is in the viewfinder. So the left and right eye are not in sync and working together. This is how I shoot sports/action.
    But, the camera is tilted, not level.
    According to my eye doc, when the eyes are not working together, they go to a natural resting position, and that can also mean the eye is actually rotated slightly. This results in the tilting. You can see this by doing this:
    • Cover one eye, and look at something with a horizontal line, like the bottom of the computer screen.
    • Then switch to cover the other eye, then look at the same horizontal line.
    If the angle of the line changes from eye to eye, you have the problem that I described.

    Because of this, I do NOT crop tight in the camera. I expect to have to level the image in post processing/editing, so I try to leave extra space that will get lost when I level the image later.

    As for "meaningless composition," that is a completely different subject.
    For that you need to study composition (books, web, etc.) and look at and study GOOD images (paintings, drawings and photos).
    Andrew Garrard likes this.

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