I got my DSLR a few years back, and for a while was desperately looking for ways to improve my photography skills, particularly in composition. Photography is such an integral part of travelling. When I come home from a trip, sorting out my photographs and picking out good ones is one of the things I enjoy most. And so I went on the hunt for some of the best photography books on composition. While there are many factors involved in creating a great photograph, I believe that composition is as important as knowing all the dials on your camera and when or how to use them. After all, a great photograph that evokes strong emotions is most powerful, thus the image has to be something special that tells a story too.
Knowing how to compose a good photo is a priceless art and I have never been convinced it could really be taught. I strongly believed at one point that composition had more to do with the sheer talent and imagination of the person behind the lens. That is, until I read Bryan Peterson’s book, ‘Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography’, which happened to be on a few professional photographers’ reading lists. All the components that go into a well composed photograph is covered here, such as design, shapes, lines, colours and patterns. Subject placement and focus is one of the most important elements in designing a photograph. He invites readers to think critically when composing, so as when to realise that it is acceptable to ‘break’ basic compositional rules, such as the times when it is wise to place the subject in the centre of the photograph as opposed to following the common ‘rule of thirds’. The bonus is that he includes many fabulous images from his portfolio.
Peterson further shows readers how to work with, and get the best out of different lighting conditions. He also writes on the various types of lenses and how to select the appropriate one to use on the field.
A highly regarded professional photographer, teacher and author, Peterson’s writing style is engaging and his book is highly readable and easy to digest without being too wordy. While seemingly elementary, budding photographers and more advanced ones alike will likely find Peterson’s book a great source of reference. I did find this book highly readable and a worthy investment in helping me improve my own photography skills. I do habitually try to visualise a powerful image in my mind’s eye first before I release the shutter these days.