Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition Simplified GIF
Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition Simplified

I don’t think anyone has really given a great effort in trying to create a philosophy of composition — especially in photography.

Here we go:

What is composition?

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition Simplified GIF

The etymology of composition:

con- +‎ positiō.

To break it down:

  • con means ‘with’.
  • positio means position, place, framing.

Therefore a composition simply means:

How do you position, place, and frame things together?

Composition in photography

In photography we have a frame. How do we organize visual elements within the frame? This is the goal of composition.

To simplify

One goal in photography: to create images which are simple and powerful.

Thus when we are composing and framing our shot, strive to simplify. Subtract the superfluous.

Flash in photography to simplify

A benefit of flash photography:

When you use a flash, you simplify the image. Why? You allow the subject to ‘pop out’ of the frame, and create a stronger ‘figure to ground‘ between the subject and background.

Why black and white?

Monochrome is great, as is the simplest aesthetic we have to strengthen our images.

When reality is stripped of color, all we have left is shape, form, texture, tone:

I don’t necessarily think black and white is superior to color, but I would say black and white is certainly SIMPLER than color.

And in my book and philosophy of aesthetics:

Strong and simple aesthetics reign supreme.


What is the purpose of composition?

Now a big question:

What is the practical or pragmatic purpose of a composition?

Well, in the context of photography, framing is everything.

For example let us think about a camera. The lens (one eye) can only see so much. The lens has a limited perspective.

Reality is insanely infinite.

However, reality is unlimited. With reality, there are a TRILLION x TRILLION ways to photograph. There is three dimensional space, and everything is always changing.

This is where 360/VR technology is fascinating to me: you capture EVERYTHING.

But still in the context of still photos: you cannot photograph everything in a single frame. You must decide what to include in your frame and what to exclude.

Also probably more important figuring out what to EXCLUDE from your frame than to figure out what to INCLUDE.


How close do you get?

One big thing in composition:

How close or far you are from your subject.

For example, photos of a wing:

Which composition (framing) is most interesting?

To me, the macro photo is the most interesting. “Filling the frame” with the texture and detail.

Thus the adage:

When in doubt, get closer.

The famous Robert Capa quote:

If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

And this is precisely the genius of Robert Capa: not his clever compositions, but the fact is how he got SO CLOSE (emotionally and physically) to his subjects!

Current takeaway:

The best compositions are CLOSE, intimate, simple, dynamic, and soulful!

ERIC

Composition 101 >

In pursuit of making (greater) compositions!


Philosophy of Composition

Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition Simplified GIF
Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition Simplified

Aesthetics

Downtown LA, 2015 (shot on a Ricoh GR with the fixed-focal 28mm lens)

ERIC KIM X ANNETTE KIM X BAUHAUS REMIX

Master composition for yourself:

Photography Composition Concepts

Street Photography Composition Tips

Tokyo, 2017
Tokyo, 2017

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Color Theory

Color wheel theory: Dynamic tension between opposing colors.
Color wheel theory: Dynamic tension between opposing colors. Image from CREATIVE EVERY DAY

Learn From the Masters of Composition

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Sergio Larrain Compositions

Dynamic Photography Composition 101

Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION
Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION

Painting Compositions

Vermeer

Dynamic Photography Composition Tips

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM
Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Composition Theory

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM
Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Take your composition to the next level:


Street Photography Composition 101

DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM
DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM
Woman and door. Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Learn compositional theory:


Compositional lessons from the masters of art


Composition lectures


Composition pictures/grids

Eric Kim photography Bauhaus Piet Mondrian


Golden Diagonal Composition

golden diagonal composition
Golden Diagonal Composition / Kyoto Station, 2018

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