Review: The Photographic Eye/Learning to See with a Camera

by Michael F.O'Brien and Norman Sibley, Davis Publications

I have dozens of books on composition. Most are out of print. Here's a gem, in print. "Composition is the arrangement of visual elements within the frame of a photograph." Notice it doesn't say anything about what the elements are or what the photo has to say. I feel that controlling the elements in the frame are very important before worrying about what is being said. It is better to start with plain everyday objects around the house and yard that if looked at very carefully will make good compositions. "Photography is an art of discovery." Learning to see all over. Finding associations of objects within a frame that we take for granted with labels and a glance. A tree is a tree and a chair a chair.

This book goes much farther than my minimal rules of composition. They put rules that can interpret the student pictures in the book. Maybe they are reading too much into each picture, but the shots are great shots of everyday people in everyday locations. I feel that is the best place to start. They state many rules, but also that rules are to be broken. I still like my fourth rule the best, "Do you like it?"

They say that learning to critique other's work is a way to learn. Yes, yes. Look at pictures all the time, why do they work? Get together with other shooters to critique each others work. We are all poor judges of our own work because we all have egos bending our ability to judge our own creations. Our own babies are not ugly!

With a camcorder you can shoot many different compositions of a location and you can select the best on a TV. The darkroom photographer has a final composition choice of re-framing his negative. We don't have that option in motion picture photography.

Once you start looking at the world for it's photographic possibilities you will see the world differently and maybe at a loss for seeing it in other contexts.

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