The Tuesday Composition: Edges

Snowy Pinnacles at Dusk, Ø Fjord, East Greenland (Image Copyright Joe Decker)
Snowy Pinnacles at Dusk. Ø Fjord, East Greenland (Image Copyright Joe Decker)

Much like our eyes are attracted to highlights in an image, our eyes and brains are not only attracted to edges in an image but they also help us in seeing them, allowing us to perceive those edges even when they’re weak or incomplete. This makes edges (lines, contours) an important element of composition.

(That we respond to edges, even minimal ones, is not simply a cultural artifact: The detection and exaggeration of edges in scenes is a function of the brain, in particular, it is one of many functions of the primary visual cortex. This part of the brain operates much in the same way that software sharpening does, if you look near a defined edge between a light and dark area in an image, the lighter area appears even lighter right next to the boundary, the dark edge appears even darker on the other side of the boundary.)

“Snowy Pinnacles” provides a simple example of these principles. As we discussed last week, many viewers of this image will first have their attention drawn to the moon because of our “attraction to highlights”, but from there, it’s likely that many viewers will then begin to look down and to the right, along the edge of the taller pinnacle until they reach the lower pinnacle at the lower right. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Highlights

Crashing Waves, Bandon Beach
Crashing Waves. Bandon Beach

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

This is the first installment of my delayed promise toward writing a weekly post about photographic composition. Unlike many basic elements of photography, such as depth-of-field or ISO, composition is something that is not easily taught in in a top-down, linear fashion. Even the most frequently cited “rules of composition” are ideas that are more often ignored in an excellent image. And very few people can even begin to construct an effective image through an abstract understanding of even dozens of such rules. Instead, photographers learn composition and how and when to apply these rules, through trial and error, through practice, through looking at other photographers’ work, and through guidance and feedback from skilled eyes. So think of this series as a starting point, not an ending point, to learning composition. Now, let’s get started by talking about highlights. (more…)

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Food photography – the basics

As a photography student I was encouraged, and in many cases assigned, to many different types of photography. We were given individual assignments on portraits, still life, products, journalism, industrial, architecture, etc. As I progressed through school, individual assignments gave way to elective courses specific to certain types of photography. Of course learning the technical and aesthetic challenges associated with different types of photography is important to any well rounded education, but more important was the ability to learn about yourself and what types of work you are best suited to. It was during these years that I discovered I really enjoy the slow, methodical processes of studio work and as a natural extension of that I gravitated towards food photography. (more…)

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The Thursday Composition: On Learning Composition

This is the first in a series of regular weekly posts I’ll make each Thursday on the subject of photographic composition. Before I start digging into the “rules” of composition, though, I’d like to start with a general discussion about composition and, more importantly, how one learns the skill of seeing, composing, and capturing effective compositions. (more…)

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