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Best book you can get about composing!
on June 28, 2008
This is a cut-paste review taken form my blog at [...]
I have been recommending the book Understanding Exposure via my Amazon affiliated link for a while now. This is far from being an original suggestion since this book must be on every photographer's blog I know. Still, this is a mandatory reading and I one of the best book to read when you are leaving the "green rectangle" mode.
As much as I like that book, I think it is time to share another book that I really like: The photographer's eye. I still have a few more pages to read before reaching the end but it has to be one of my favorite book so far.
It is not a technical book per say. It is never written things like: use spot metering and under-expose by X stop, etc. Yet, it has to be the most technical book I have read about what makes a good picture. There are a lot of explanations about how to approach a scene and how to exploit the color/contrast/lines to your advantage.
One of the many things I like is the way each fact is justified and backed by a scientific concept. Sometimes the explanations might go a bit too philosophical for my taste but most of the time I could relate to them.
Basically, the author identified all elements/concepts that could be used to make a picture and describe their impacts. He starts with the simplest of them all (the dot) then building on top of it to move to more complex design (ex: curved lines). The approach works very well, especially if you take a break every few pages to go out and try this new knowledge. For example, after reading the section on framing, I gave a try to square aspect ratio (which is not that practical when you have a 2x3 viewfinder). It forced me to see my subject in a new way to make better use of the space. Now, when I am shooting a subject that is not suited for a 2x3 ratio, I instinctively check to see how it would look in a square frame.
This is just one of the many ways this book has changed my shooting style. Some of the other interesting topics covered are: framing/cropping, colors and shapes relationships, how to shoot with an intent, etc.
This is not an art book, each picture was put there to illustrate a specific concept. The author has taken great care in his selection to pick images from around the world (with a focus on Asia) and often give some background information about them which is a nice touch. I also liked the fact that many versions of an image/scene are often used to illustrate a concept. Because, sometimes, pictures are stronger than words...
I got this book because I wanted to increase the artistic quality of my pictures. What I did not plan for was that my level of self-criticism would increase too. So Now I end up with a better skill set, but I am still aiming higher... I guess that is the only way to improve!