Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: "Foundations of Photography: Composition" by Ben Long

After realizing I had gotten into a compositional rut a long time ago, I decided to watch Ben Long's 5-hour video course "Foundations of Photography: Composition," on Long covers a lot of material, but obviously doesn't delve into as much detail as one possibly could regarding every element of composition. For example, there is only about 11 minutes dedicated to the subject of color (which clearly can be discussed ad infinitum). At other times, he does say all one can about a subject, if the topic is small enough.

But for the meatier parts of the course, I was very happy with how the video presented them. For example, Long describes four fundamental composition ideas: separation of the subject and the background, balance, point of view, and a degree of simplicity. The rest of the other compositional elements he discusses (and there are A LOT!) build upon them (e.g., geometry, light, best practices). He encourages shooting in black and white to concentrate on composition itself.

Other interesting aspects of the course include a look into a photography workshop where the workshop's students are given two assignments that Long also gives to the viewer (the video actually suggests several exercises to the viewer). We can see what those students photographed and, more importantly, the critique their photographs generate. In the course, Long and Connie Imboden (the workshop teacher) critique the work of professionals as well, particularly that of Steve Simon, Paul Taggart, and Imboden's. Long also provides a very light discussion of post production (cropping, re-sizing, changing tones, altering perspective, retouching, and vignetting).

The video does have a few shortcomings (there is about 25 minutes of dry exposition in the beginning before you start getting to the crux of the course), but I still definitely recommend it. It helped me build a vocabulary for what I was seeing and doing, and it formalized/organized random tips I've been receiving throughout my photography education. I can't wait to try out what I've learned in the upcoming year!

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