I picked up an eBook last week that I had been meaning to read for some time now, Visual Flow – Mastering the Art of Composition by Ian Plant (with George Stocking).
Have you ever returned from a photo shoot, downloaded your images and thought to yourself ”these are ok but there’s still something missing.” Is it the composition? Is the scene too busy? Is it unbalanced? Now before I get deep into the ebook let me take a minute and introduce you to the author.
Ian Plant is a professional nature and landscape photographer; teacher, workshop leader and author who is a frequent contributor to publications such as Outdoor Photographer and Popular Photography. If you’re not yet familiar with Ian and his work then the best thing that I can recommend is that you get familiar with it. His photographs are masterpieces and a study in the art of (dare I say) composition. Ian is also the author/photographer of 8 print books including “Chesapeake: Bay of Light which received critical acclaim from the Washington Post among others.
Visual Flow takes you through critical and fundamental elements to consider and put into practise so that you compose your image in such a way as to tell the viewer a story. The story you’re seeing. As Ian puts it in his introduction “A snapshot shows the world what your camera sees, but when you create a composition, you show the world what you see.”
“You had me at Hello”
Yup…I was hooked right at the introduction. Who would have thought that this 287-page ebook on composition would turn out to grab my attention…and keep it throughout the length of the book. Ian’s rich writing style and text complimented by the incredible photographs from both himself and George Stocking make this ebook an indispensable tool to add to your learning arsenal.
Let me give you an example from early on the book…”Visual flow…. is my way of conceptualizing photographic composition.” “Not unlike the flow of a swift-moving stream, you want the viewer’s eye to get trapped in the ‘visual flow’ of your images, swept along deep into composition.” “Your goal as a photographer is to engage the viewer’s eye, commanding their attention, leading them deeper and deeper into the scene before them.”
These excerpts are of course complimented by the photos that go along with them which act as the imagery to reinforce and substantiate the text.
The depth of information imparted in this book is incredible. Ian doesn’t just ramble off different compositional rules and techniques but gets to the heart of why an image works, how to make an image work and how you go about getting there. He discuss techniques employed in paintings by the masters… Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Da Vinci, to illustrate that compositional elements that have been used for centuries in the visual arts are also relevant today in the photographic arts. He also discusses concepts that originate in the musical arts such as “counterpoint” and how that relates to photography today. I was amazed and enlightened. I learned more from “Visual Flow” then I have in a long time.
Don’t get me wrong this book isn’t all about concepts and theories it’s also a practical guide on how to execute on these concepts. Ian goes through different compositional elements including abstract and physical elements. He discusses how to use shapes (curves, diagonal lines, circles, triangles, etc) to create a compelling image. How do you create visual mass and use negative space to your advantage? That’s covered.
You’ve heard about the rule of thirds? So have I. But do you know where and how it originated? When should you use and when shouldn’t you. Ian discusses this in-depth and provides insight that I, for one, found fascinating.
Interspersed throughout the book are image studies where Ian explains the different compositional elements of the image and why it works.
This is one of the most comprehensive books that I’ve read on “mastering” composition. I’ll be honest at $24.95 it’s one of the more expensive books that I’ve reviewed. Is it worth it? I’d have to say a resounding…YES. You can click here to purchase the ebook or if you want to give it a test run first you can also download a free trial.
If you haven’t visited Ian’s Dreamscapes site then I suggest you do. Aside from his wonderful site and blog you’ll also find some wonderful video tutorials in his store.
The third issue of PHOTOGRAPH A Digital Quarterly Magazine for Creative Photographers hit the stands today or more appropriately your inbox. Craft & Vision has put out another outstanding issue and this 113 page ad free magazine is full of thought provoking articles and beautiful imagery.
Issue 3 features insightful Q&As and featured portfolios from Hengki Koentjoro, a nature photographer who specializes in fine art black & white photography; Kevin Clark a food photographer who can make crumbs on a plate look appetizing and Dave Delnea a commercial, travel and landscape photographer and author.
You’ll also be treated to a number of excellent articles that includes (and this isn’t all of them):
Without The Camera – David duChemin
Creative Composition – John Paul Caponigro
The Art of the Print – Martin Bailey
Camera Craft – Nicole S. Young
Gear is Good – Al Smith
Portraits in Northern Kenya – David duChemin
You can purchase Issue 3 of PHOTOGRAPH for USD $8 here. As with all of Craft & Vision’s offerings, they aim to knock the content out of the ballpark and do so at exceptional value. That’s why you can also get a one-year subscription for $USD 24—that’s four issues for the price of three.
Last month I reviewed “Beyond Thirds – A Photographer’s Introduction to Creative Composition” by Andrew S. Gibson. This month Andrew has just released his latest e-book “Square – The Digital Photographer’s Guide to the Square Format”.
In Square, Gibson delves deeper into creative composition but this time with the intent of producing an image with an aspect ratio of 1:1. The rule of thirds doesn’t apply here…so what does? This book isn’t just about cropping your images (although he does discuss this). It’s about composing your shots and making conscious decisions that will have an impact on the final image.
Some of the topics that Andrew covers are as follows:
- The History of the Square Format
- Going square (three ways to create square format images)
- Square Subjects
- The 35mm problem
- Cropping Square
- Design & Balance
The Four S’s (shape, simplicity, space, and subtlety)
In addition to this Gibson also includes case studies by photographers Matt Toynbee and Flavia Schaller and additional tutorials in the appendix.
Square retails for $9.97 and can be purchased directly from Andrew Gibson’s site here.
Rules are made to be broken and in Andrew S. Gibson’s latest Craft & Vision ebook he gives you permission to do just that. Beyond Thirds – A Photographer’s Introduction to Creative Composition is an easy read with practical information and tips on how to get the most out of your images. Whether you’re a novice, looking to improve the composition of your photographs or an experienced photographer this ebook covers the basics and beyond. While Gibson starts out outlining what the rule of thirds is all about he quickly moves beyond that and explains how to take a holistic approach to composition.
By discussing how to take into consideration all visual elements within a frame he quickly has the reader looking through his own viewfinder. For some photographers composing a scene is intuitive (or eventually becomes intuitive) Beyond Thirds helps you “see” the process that Gibson takes by breaking down each image in the ebook into the compositional elements that make it so pleasing to the eye.
The ebook explores important subjects like the creative use of balance and focal points, insights into how to shape a subject, and using aspect ratio to establish an ideal foundation for making photographs, and so much more!
Gibson also includes creative exercises which provides the reader with ideas and insights needed to compose more engaging photographs.
Beyond Thirds is now available for PDF download for $5, or pay just $4 if you use coupon code BT4. You can also download 5 or more PDF eBooks at 20% off when you use the discount code BT20. These codes expire Saturday, November 19 at 11:59pm (PST). Click here to get the book.