Composing Good Photographs

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  • ComposingGood Photographs

    Marc LevoyComputer Science DepartmentStanford University

    CS 178, Spring 2010

  • There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

    - Ansel Adams

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Outline

    ! the pictorial elements of photography,i.e. the design in the 2D picture frame

    line and form pattern and texture tone and color

    ! pictorial design symmetry and balance framing common compositions

    ! things we wont talk about today- situation, storyline, viewpoint, field of view, focus,

    lighting, exposure, color balance, post-processing

    3

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Learning good composition

    ! there are no rules there are only tools and heuristics

    ! like describing wine with words, they dont mean much they merely give us a framework for thinking about issues

    ! the best way to learn is to take lots of pictures think about the issues as you take them critique your photographs, and have others critique them

    ! look at good photographs by others most useful if youve also tried the same thing yourself

    4

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Lines as a pictorial element

    5

    Ansel Adams, Aspens, 1958

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Arrangement of lines

    6

    (Freeman Patterson)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Lines as a decorative element

    7

    (Howard@photodelusions.wordpress.com)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Lines that lead your eye to the subject

    8

    Hiromu Kira, The Thinker, 1930

    (London)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Lines that lead your eye to the subject

    9

    (Bryan Peterson)

    the lines dont need to be man-made, or smooth

  • Raphael,Galatea, 1513

    (Gardner)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Form - lines with meaning

    11

    (Bryan Peterson)

    first shot

    second shot

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Form - lines with meaning

    12

    Edward Weston, Pepper No. 30, 1930

  • Georgia OKeeffe,Grey Line, 1923

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Shape - readily identifiable form

    14

    (Bryan Peterson)

    backlighting draws attention to shape

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Shape - readily identifiable form

    15

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Pattern - repeated forms

    16

    (Bryan Peterson)

    first shot

    second shot

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Pattern - repeated forms

    17

    Abhaneri Stepwell,Rajasthan, India

  • Frederick Evans,The Sea of Steps -Wells Cathedral, 1903

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Rhythm - a looser kind of pattern

    20

    (Freeman Paterson)

  • Auguste Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Texture:fine patterns

    22

    early product of f/64 club sharp focus, smooth papers reaction against Pictorialists

    Ansel Adams, Boards and Thistles, 1932

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Texture

    23

    Edward Weston, Dunes, Oceano, 1936

    co-founder of f/64 club with Ansel Adams

  • Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, 1934

  • Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, 1934

    (photographs by Galen Frysinger)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Lighting as an aid to pictorial design

    26

    Fluor Garduo,Basket of Light, Guatemala, 1989

    (London)

  • Yousuf Karsh,Winston Churchill, 1941

    Rembrandt van Rijn,Self Portrait, 1660

  • Yousuf Karsh,Winston Churchill, 1941

    Rembrandt van Rijn,Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts, 1631

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Tone as a pictorial element

    29Robert Mapplethorpe

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Color as a pictorial element

    30

    warm

    cool

    (Hedgecoe)

    pictorial

    (London)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Color as an accent

    31

    (Hedgecoe)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Encircled by color

    32

    (Hedgecoe)

  • Giovanni Bellini, Altarpiece ofS. Zaccaria, Venice, 1505!

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Color as rhythmic accent

    34

    (Hedgecoe)

  • Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgement of Paris, 1636

  • Diego Velzquez,Las Meninas, 1656

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Pictorial design

    ! symmetry and balance

    ! framing

    ! common compositions

    37

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Symmetry

    38(Marc Levoy)

    Arcade in Red Fort,Delhi, 2008

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Symmetry

    39

    Place du Carrousel,Paris, 2009

    (Marc Levoy)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Asymmetry

    40

    (Marc Levoy)

    off-center placement of main subject underscores the asymmetry of the architecture

    Montmartre, 2009

    Rajasthan, 2008

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Balance

    41

    symmetrical background + dynamic, unbalanced foreground

    (Freeman Paterson)

  • Jacque-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Framing

    43

    (Marc Levoy)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    More dynamic framing

    44

    Dennis Stock,James Dean,1955

    shadow edges complete the frame slashing diagonals create tension

    (London)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    The picture frame

    45

    first shot

    (Bryan Peterson)

    second shot

  • Raphael, School of Athens, 1511

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Common compositions

    ! upright equilateral triangle calm, stability, power

    ! diagonal tension, discord, dynamism

    ! S-curve motion, sensuality eye flow

    ! rule of thirds

    47

  • Titian, Madonna of the Pesaro Family, 1526

    Raphael, Madonna with the Goldfinch, 1506

  • Titian, Madonna of the Pesaro Family, 1526

    Raphael, Madonna with the Goldfinch, 1506

  • Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538

  • Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538

    pendant

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Photographic examples

    52

    Edward Weston, Charis Wilson Nude, 1936

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Photographic examples

    53

    Jimmy Sinhttp://www.pbase.com/aloha_lavina/librodo_workshop_malaysia

    diagonal leading to her eye eye and shoulder use rule of thirds stems create frame within a frame partially hidden face creates mystery

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Photographic examples

    54

    Jimmy Sinhttp://www.pbase.com/aloha_lavina/librodo_workshop_malaysia

    diagonal leading to her eye eye and shoulder use rule of thirds stems create frame within a frame partially hidden face creates mystery

  • ! Marc Levoy

    S-curve

    55

    (photoinf.com)

    large collection of articlesabout photographic composition

  • ! Marc Levoy

    S-curve

    56

    Ansel Adams,Tetons and Snake River, 1942

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Pictorial design

    57

    (John Shappell)

    (Samuel Schulenburg)

    (Jay Bergeson - converted to B&W)

    St. Teresas Church,Bodega, California

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Pictorial design

    58

    Ansel Adams, 1953

    (John Shappell)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds (1963)

    59

    Potters Schoolhouse andSt. Teresas Church, Bodega

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts (from Fredo Durand)

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds

    60

    reposition yourself

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds

    61

    use a shallow depth of field

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds

    62

    fix it in Photoshop

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds

    63

    or leave it there!

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds get close to your subject

    64

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds get close to your subject fill the frame

    65(Bryan Peterson)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds get close to your subject fill the frame

    ! avoid compositional errors dont center objects needlessly

    66

    (John Shaw)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds get close to your subject fill the frame

    ! avoid compositional errors dont center objects needlessly keep the horizonal level, or make it wildly unlevel

    67 (http://www.fotofinish.com/resources/centers/photo/takingpictures.htm)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds get close to your subject fill the frame

    ! avoid compositional errors dont center objects needlessly keep the horizonal level, or make it wildly unlevel avoid accidental alignments

    68(http://www.fotofinish.com/resources/centers/photo/takingpictures.htm)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Parting thoughts

    ! simplify your picture avoid cluttered backgrounds get close to your subject fill the frame

    ! avoid compositional errors dont center objects needlessly keep the horizonal level, or make it wildly unlevel avoid accidental alignments sweep the frame to check for trouble

    - cropped element, distracting object, non-parallel line

    69

    (Fredo Durand)

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Fredo Durand (MIT)

    70

    http://people.csail.mit.edu/fredo/Photos/Links/

  • ! Marc Levoy

    Fredo Durand (MIT)! http://people.csail.mit.edu/fredo/Photos/Favorites/

    ! http://people.csail.mit.edu/fredo/Photos/Links/

    7