Focus on Composing Photos

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  • 7/29/2019 Focus on Composing Photos


  • 7/29/2019 Focus on Composing Photos


    Focus OnComposing Photos

  • 7/29/2019 Focus on Composing Photos


    The Focus On Series

    Photography is all about the end result your photo. The Focus On series oers books

    with essential inormation so you can get the best photos without spending thousands

    o hours learning techniques or sotware skills. Each book ocuses on a specic area

    o knowledge within photography, cutting through the oten conusing wafe o

    photographic jargon to ocus solely on showing you what you need to do to capture

    beautiul and dynamic shots every time you pick up your camera.

    Titles in the Focus Onseries:

  • 7/29/2019 Focus on Composing Photos


    Focus OnComposing Photos

    Peter Ensenberger



    Focal Press is an Imprint o Elsevier

  • 7/29/2019 Focus on Composing Photos


    Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USAThe Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, OX5 1GB, UK

    2011 Peter Ensenberger. Published by Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

    No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronicor mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system,without permission in writing from the publisher. Details on how to seek permission, furtherinformation about the Publishers permissions policies and our arrangements with organizations suchas the Copyright Clearance Center and the Copyright Licensing Agency, can be found at our

    website: .

    This book and the individual contributions contained in it are protected under copyright by thePublisher (other than as may be noted herein).

    NoticesKnowledge and best practice in this eld are constantly changing. As new research and experiencebroaden our understanding, changes in research methods, professional practices, or medicaltreatment may become necessary.

    Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluatingand using any information, methods, compounds, or experiments described herein. In using suchinformation or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including

    parties for whom they have a professional responsibility.To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assumeany liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability,negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, orideas contained in the material herein.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataEnsenberger, Peter.

    Focus on composing photos / Peter Ensenberger.p. cm.

    Includes index.ISBN 978-0-240-81505-3

    1. Composition (Photography) I. Title.TR179.E57 2011770.1dc22

    2010048143British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

    A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

    ISBN: 978-0-240-81505-3

    For information on all Focal Press publicationsvisit our website at

    Printed in China

    11 12 13 14 15 5 4 3 2 1

    Typeset by: diacriTech, Chennai, India
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    To my parents, who probably didnt realize when theygave me my rst camera that they also gave me adirection in life.

    Peter Ensenberger

  • 7/29/2019 Focus on Composing Photos


    About the Author

    Throughout his career, Peter Ensenberger has crossedphotographic boundaries to explore dierent styles anddiverse subjects. Ater studying fne art photography

    in college, he went on to win awards as a staphotojournalist or several newspapers. More recently,he served 25 years as director o photography orArizona Highways, the award-winning nature and travelmagazine. His responsibilities or the magazine covered awide range o rolesphotographer, photo editor, writer,and project manager. Peter letArizona Highways in

    2009 to devote ull time to his own photography business.Currently, he resides in Tempe, Arizona, where he is areelance photographer or Black Star, an international

    photo agency based in New York. Corporate and editorialassignments make up the bulk o his work, with anemphasis on travel and liestyle. In addition, he leadsgroup and individual photo workshops to Arizonas mostbeautiul and remote locations.

    Peter Ensenberger

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    I wish to thank Valerie Geary, Stacey Walker, GrahamSmith, Laura Aberle, Kara Race-Moore, and all at FocalPress for their patience and guidance in sharpening both

    thought and presentation. For shedding light along theway, much appreciation goes out to Derek Von Briesenand Scott Condray. And for her loving encouragement,

    support, and advice in bringing this book into clearerfocus, I would like to give special thanks to my wife, Kim.

    Peter Ensenberger

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    Introduction vii

    PhotograPhyisauniversallanguage capable o commu-nicating to a wide audience.But photography also is a verypersonal aair. No two o usapproach it exactly the sameway. You bring to bear yourown personal experiences and

    infuences every time you pushthe cameras shutter-releasebutton. Each image captures amoment in time seen throughyour eyes, processed by your wayo seeing the world.

    Thats the appeal o photographyas a orm o sel-expression.It allows each o us to artullyinterpret the world around us orcreate our own alternative reality.For many, its our principalcreative outlet, producing imagesthat can be easily shared withothers.

    With the advent o digitaltechnology, photography has

    grown into one o the mostpopular hobbies in the worldtoday. Its the most accessibleo all art orms. As a un andaordable pastime, photographytruly is the art o the masses.

    Those committed to improvingtheir skills and techniques mayenjoy lielong partnershipswith their cameras, producingphotographs to be proud o.I youre persistent and willing topush yoursel to achieve lotiergoals, your images will begin

    to reveal a personal style allyour own.

    A good rst step in rening yourstyle is learning the undamentalso composition that have stoodthe test o time. Its worth notingthat many o the worlds greatphotographers had no ormalart training. They developedtheir visual sensibilities throughobservation and perception.Aspiring photographers shouldollow their lead.

    Dening the artistry o compo-sition, photography pioneerEdward Weston cut straightto the heart o the matter

    with an economy o words.Composition, he said, is thestrongest way o seeing.

    All around us, the elements ocompositionobjects, lines,

    shapes, colors, and shadowscoalesce in apparent disarray.By raising your awareness othe orderly way these elementst together, youll realizethe strongest way o seeing.Learning the basics o goodcomposition helps you recognize

    the essential components anddesign artistic arrangementsrom the chaos. Youll producebetter photographs that combinebalance, simplicity, and style.

    For anyone whose design skillsare not intuitive, practicingthe undamentals o goodcomposition will lead toinormed decisions. Its helpulto understand the reasonsbehind the so-called ruleso composition. Whetheryoure a beginning studento photography or someonewho has been working at itor a while, improving your

    compositional skills will helpyou create photographs thatare visually pleasing and standup to critical scrutiny. Knowingthe basics allows you to quicklyrecognize the potential in any


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    scene, design an aestheticallypleasing composition, andthen capture it the best waypossible. With a little practice andrepetition, applying the rules o

    composition will become secondnature to you.

    First, the rules o compositionare meant to create balance andvisual harmony in any work oart, be it a photograph, painting,or sculpture. Better photographscan result rom knowing the rules

    o composition, and its okayto bend or even break the ruleswith good reason. Sometimesdisregarding the rules introducesdynamic tension to good eect.But its important to knowand practice the basics beoredeviating rom them.

    Second, the purpose o goodcomposition is to orchestratethe viewers eye movement asit explores the image. Criticalplacement o compositionalelements eectively leadsthe eye into and through thescene, containing it within theboundaries o the rame and

    eventually leading the viewerseye to the ocal pointthecompositions visual payo. Thelonger viewers are engaged bythe composition, the more o theimage they will see.

    Another important basic step inevery photographers educationis learning to work with light.Composition and light go handin hand. The prominence and

    placement o highlights andshadows become importantcompositional elements whenproperly incorporated in yourphotographs. Using the pre-vailing light to its best advantagein any situation will have animmediate positive impact onyour images. Making sure thatthe direction and quality othe light avors your subject issometimes more important thanthe subject itsel. Conversely,a poorly li