Tuesday, October 23, 2018


In modern photography the fine art image is all about composition. I say that because with modern DSLRs it’s easy to achieve a good exposure and auto focus is so good that sharpness is rarely an issue. So, what’s left (what a camera can’t do) is composition of the scene. Unfortunately, too many professional photographers today seem to be ignorant of the most basic tenets of art. One example I see way too often is the composition killer of just putting the subject dead center in the frame! I don’t know if this is due to ignorance or laziness, but if you want people to look at your fine art images for more than two seconds you must learn the compositional concepts, that the master painters developed centuries ago, that create lasting interest in one’s art.

One powerful compositional tool we use to guide the viewer's eye is the Leading Line. The concept is simple; we look for something in the scene that will act as a pointer towards our chosen center-of-interest. 

Here’s my example of this technique….
f8.0 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 70mm
In this cropped image I have multiple leading lines, in that fence, taking the viewer’s eye to that nice foggy tree.  What’s important to notice is that I have that fence coming out of the Left Corner of the frame creating a nice diagonal across the frame. Remember I said that this compositional tool is powerful so you should be careful to not over use it. One way I see this happening a lot is when photographers put their leading lines (again!) dead center in the middle of the frame! One of the worst examples of this is placing railroad tracks up the middle of the frame (the horror!) Not to mention it is not legal to use the railroad tracks).

So here’s my original image before cropping…
Original Image
My original image has those leading lines, but the scene is weak and static because I’m showing the whole tree centered in the frame.  I rarely photograph whole trees anyway because for a good composition you have to reduce their size so much; I think trees get more interesting close-up.

The other things that bother me in my original image are those tree leaves hanging into the frame from above—a photographic convention that is just a distraction here, and the road on the right acting like a competing leading line.

Post Processing this image:
  1. Monochrome conversion: NIK’s Silver Efex Pro 2 using the Antique Plate preset modified to my taste.
  2. NIK’s, HDR Efex Pro2, single image tone mapping using Deep 2 preset (modified) with grain added.
  3. Cropped to enhance the leading lines.
So, before you click the shutter look and think about the scene you’ve framed up in your viewfinder because you can’t always crop your way into a better composition like we did with our medium and large format film cameras. So, unless you have a digital camera in the 50-80+ mega-pixel range it’s best to create the best composition at the point of capture.

’Til next week….ask if you have questions….

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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