View Poll Results: Does composition matter anymore?

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  • Yes, I'd take the efforts to ensure I have both sound technical basics and composition.

    341 82.77%
  • Nah, photography is an art, those who can't understand my pictures aren't artistic.

    42 10.19%
  • What is composition?

    6 1.46%
  • I rather hang out with my friends/buddies, taking pictures is just a by-product.

    8 1.94%
  • Other (please comment)

    15 3.64%
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Thread: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

  1. #61

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    or the education system. So much for generalisation.

    dun generalise me with the masses. I skipped school a lot.

  2. #62
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by grumpy View Post
    dun generalise me with the masses. I skipped school a lot.
    then you should be taking photos which the masses are not used to!!! Oops, I'm generalising again...

  3. #63
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    Perhaps you might want to share how you relate to a person when you find his/her tilting horizons are just too disconcerting to look at.
    I think most photos have virtues beyond the orientation of the horizon. To reduce a critique to "horizon slanted. end of story" is IMHO a bit simplistic.

  4. #64

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    Such a comment does give some valuable feedback about the effect the picture has on an observer, even if it is not understood why. This is by far better than comments like "your horizon is tilted" or "the subject is centered" which only focus on following rules for the sake of following rules, regardless whether they help the picture or not.

    Otherwise, you end up with something like the education system here: students who are good at regurgitating and scoring high in exams ("yes, the horizon is straight, and the rule of thirds is folowed - 100 marks"), but not so good in thinking independently or creatively. You find this mentality all over the place, e.g. in expressions like "the correct way to ...", "correct framing", "correct exposure", - as if there would be only one "right" solution, and any alternative possibility would be automatically bad/wrong.

    In the age of cameras that refuse to trigger the shutter unless everyone in the picture is smiling, just wait until cameras insist that you follow composition rules ("Error: cannot take picture with a centered horizon. Please reframe and try again.") Will THAT help photography?
    well, i am one person who believes that tilted horizons can work, centred subjects can work. but ONLY when given the right context, when given the right scenario. and there is of course, more than one right scenario.

    but there are 8 million right scenarios, 8 million right angles, 8 million right compositions.. there are 20 million wrong scenarios, 20 million wrong angles, 20 million wrong compositions. it is my belief that passing such comments as those mentioned above will lead to a general trend to excusecrafting for these 20 million errors when they could have gotten it right.

    most of the time when the comments are thrown in.. and i say most, not all the time.. the fact is these do not work. otherwise the person commenting would not have passed such a comment, since it worked for him, and he won't have found it a point worth mentioning - would you agree? believe me, if the comment is unwarranted, there will be people willing to disagree with the commentator. i've done it myself before, i've seen it done before. what we're talking here is generally lack of thought going into work and calling it thought.

    and that is exactly what is wrong with the singaporean mentality, not what you mention.

    all comments probably have positive value to a picture, given that the perspective from which it is coming from is a constructive one. obviously you have seen comments here given because person a had a beef with person b, and he decides to go on a rampage to prove his dislike. that is one case in which the comments do not add to the picture.

    but tell me, how is someone liking your picture going to help you, when they don't know why? like i've said before, there are many aspects to the picture, but composition, is by far, in my view, the most important one of them. it either works, or it doesn't. a poor composition can appeal to people, but i think the definition we are looking for a good composition is the fact that it can appeal to many. for example, not everyone can appreciate kafka's works, but many can appreciate that they are something to be looked into further.

    it is probably correct to be technical for certain genres of work, for most of the time, which is probably why there is so much emphasis on it. in p&p, messy hair, overdone di, bad makeup, etc.. all these should be emphasised, for the right reasons.

    for landscapes, etc, then you have the horizon. how many landscape photographs have you came across that work with a slightly tilted horizon?

    i hope you understand the need to look at the basics, when one is starting out, and often these comments are given to people who have stipulated that they are started out. this has nothing to do with an education system or singaporean mentality. even usa schools teach ground rules for mathematics when they educate.. no one starts off with abstract maths, or imaginary numbers (complex numbers).. one has to learn to walk before they fly; and that is probably the reason why quite a few members here emphasize these. i find nothing wrong with that. when members like will03 post up pictures with tilted horizons, you don't see anybody going in to throw such comments - because most people acknowledge that will03 knows what he is doing, what is going on. and that is the main, main difference. i hope you get what i am driving at.

    but back to the point of contention. a tells b that he likes his photograph and doesn't know why. you know what that sounds to me?

    like a telling b that he loves her , but he doesn't know why. the thing is, you and i know that a very well knows why he loves b - it could be lust talking, it could be the way the hair falls across her face, it could be the way she laughs. the thing is, a hasn't really thought about why he likes b.. but he's ready to unload his shotgun.

    fact is fact, everyone knows their reasons for likes and dislikes. you cannot like something without not knowing why - and if a tells b that, then he probably hasn't thought enough. there has to be something appealing to him. you want thinking? then this is thinking. thinking why you like something, instead of giving it an unknown, unexplainable meaning which helps the person posting the pictures up none.
    Last edited by night86mare; 20th June 2008 at 04:43 PM.

  5. #65
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    I don't disagree but it has to be judged case by case. Tilting horizons or verticals will have much more impact in some genres than others and that's instantly detectable. In these instances, a tilting line is more than enough to break the image.

    Its like getting an F430 that's limited to 120 km/h. You could get the best Schedoni leather for the seats but it just doesn't matter anymore.

  6. #66

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    I think most photos have virtues beyond the orientation of the horizon. To reduce a critique to "horizon slanted. end of story" is IMHO a bit simplistic.
    that is a fair comment, and i do find that critique given in the critique corner or various threads these days are a tad too short, especially given the context that the person posting tends to be new to photography.

    the thing is, in defense of the curt comments given.. do you really feel that they're being overly anal about these rules, or do you think that they have positive merit.. just that they need more elaboration?

    in the same breath, do you not think that

    "i like it, but i don't know why." possibly needs more elaboration?

    now, nobody needs to be as long-winded as i am, nor spend time writing up long passages about why a works here and can work in another situation.. but i'm thinking, most people take up photography to improve, to take good pictures.

    i say most, i will never deny that there are certainly people who want to just shoot and document faucets of their life without having a pretty picture that can appeal to people, nor a picture full of mood and convey what they felt from the moment.. but i'm pretty sure majority of people want to improve.. so despite curt, short, and possibly confusing comments.. at least they are comments that people feel that the picture goes wrong in, and i think none of these should be dismissed as an attempt to put others down.

    one thing singaporeans today probably need to improve in is the fact that a) it's never personal on the internet, b) if people have something to say, listen - then disagree if you will, but listen, and always give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
    Last edited by night86mare; 20th June 2008 at 04:53 PM.

  7. #67

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by grumpy View Post
    So it becomes a masterpiece because the famous photographer thinks about composition? or Just because of his reputation?
    you know, i didn't see this one.

    reminds me of a side-story in a graphic novel (ex machina) once.. of this artist who produced a fantastic painting that won her numerous awards. the next one she produced, it wasn't quite as good, but the fanboys delivered and got her those awards again. she knew it wasn't quite as good as the first, and she was riding on the tails of the last one..

    so in spite, she produced a third work which was absolutely horrible.. as a form of protest..

    and the fans delivered it right. to. the. top.

  8. #68

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by night86mare View Post
    well, there are people here who give comments aplenty like..

    "i like it, but i don't know why"..

    so effectively, you are going to end up with people who say

    "i did it, but i don't know why"..
    They probably didn't think hard enough..

  9. #69
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by night86mare View Post
    the thing is, in defense of the curt comments given.. do you really feel that they're being overly anal about these rules, or do you think that they have positive merit.. just that they need more elaboration?
    Thanks for the two long replies... yes, to me there seems to be an obsession with following the rules. But there are different kinds of rules. Let me explain:

    Fermi's Golden Rule is an expression derived from fairly fundamental quantum theory. As long as you accept quantum theory, Fermi's Rule is pretty much an immutable law.

    When wiring up a house, the rule is that the earth wire should be the yellow/green wire, neutral should be blue, and live should be brown. Of course, the electric current going through the wires doesn't care about their colour, so it's an arbitrary rule - but the convention/rule greatly contributes to safety by reducing the risk of accidental miswiring, without unduly limiting the freedom of electricians to design circuits.

    Rules of composition are much softer rules. In fact, I believe the term "rule" is already very misleading. You can take a large number of pictures, have a large number of people comment on them, and then analyse statistically what properties "good" and "bad" pictures have. You'll find that on average, people prefer horizons to be straight. On average, the main subject is appreciated more if it is off-center. That's all fair and good. The fallacy is to turn these observations around and claim that for a picture to be considered good, it should have a level horizon, and the subject should be off-center. This is complete misinterpretation of the statistics. Yet my impression is that to a significant extent, this is exactly what's happening.

    in the same breath, do you not think that

    "i like it, but i don't know why." possibly needs more elaboration?
    Of course it would be desirable to have some deeper insight there. But I still believe that a honest "I like it" is better than no response at all or than some "follows/doesn't follow this-or-that-rule" response. All the "rules" are attempts to explain why we like some things, they are not a purpose on their own. The photographer may not understand WHY someone likes/dislikes the picture, but the pure fact that someone DOES (or does not) like it itself is already valuable information, and based on this feedback the photographer may be able to develop his/her own insights what/why it works and what/why it doesn't.

    Similarly, I'm convinced there are people who intuitively can arrange/compose beautiful photographs, without being able to explain why. Does that diminish the aesthetics of their pictures?

    at least they are comments that people feel that the picture goes wrong in,
    That's the point - are people saying they don't like the picture, and suggest why this might be the case? Fine with me. But what do you make of comments that are purely about "doesn't fulfil this or that rule" (and therefore the picture is automatically bad)?

    From the earlier post:
    but there are 8 million right scenarios, 8 million right angles, 8 million right compositions.. there are 20 million wrong scenarios, 20 million wrong angles, 20 million wrong compositions. it is my belief that passing such comments as those mentioned above will lead to a general trend to excusecrafting for these 20 million errors when they could have gotten it right.
    I disagree here. The categories of "right" and "wrong" are subjective and thus not clear cut. Who can argue about matters of taste?

    Of course, it is very convenient to abuse this argument as an excuse. But just because it is easily abused doesn't diminish its validity. In the end, if someone asks for feedback, but doesn't accept criticism based on the "taste" argument, what harm is there for those giving feedback? At most, the requestor will miss an opportunity, but that's his/her own problem.

    most of the time when the comments are thrown in.. and i say most, not all the time.. the fact is these do not work. otherwise the person commenting would not have passed such a comment, since it worked for him, and he won't have found it a point worth mentioning - would you agree?
    If it was like this, I would agree. My impression is that frequently, the responses are merely motivated by lacking conformance to the rules, not by the picture not working.

    fact is fact, everyone knows their reasons for likes and dislikes. you cannot like something without not knowing why
    On this one, I strongly disagree. For example, I'm not sure what it was that made the Lasagna I had two days ago so delicious. I am sure I liked it a lot!

  10. #70

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    I wasn't trying to be funny when I voted "what is composition"

    Composing and image is very much like writing, or painting. I think we are sometimes so bound by fixed rules that we forget that it is eventually about expression, and not following the rules.

    Like music, some people think rap is crap, some believe it symbolizes the soul of a beat.

    What say you?

  11. #71
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    As much as you wish to write freely to express yourself, there are still rules that we follow. Do you write from left to right or right to left or top down?

  12. #72
    Senior Member zac08's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    As much as you wish to write freely to express yourself, there are still rules that we follow. Do you write from left to right or right to left or top down?
    Depends on the language and where u use it.

    English is from left to right, top down.
    Simplified chinese is left to right, top down
    Traditional chinese is from top down, right to left.

    Not too sure about the rest of the languages though.
    Michael Lim
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  13. #73
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by zac08 View Post
    Depends on the language and where u use it.

    English is from left to right, top down.
    Simplified chinese is left to right, top down
    Traditional chinese is from top down, right to left.

    Not too sure about the rest of the languages though.
    My point being, regardless of what you do even in the midst of attempting something different, there are still rules you need to follow. Like it or not, you have to relate to your audiences if you want them to start knowing your work and not expect them to think like you do. This akins to writing in a coherent manner.

    DoYoUfInDtHiSaCcEpTaBlE ?

  14. #74

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    My point being, regardless of what you do even in the midst of attempting something different, there are still rules you need to follow. Like it or not, you have to relate to your audiences if you want them to start knowing your work and not expect them to think like you do. This akins to writing in a coherent manner.?
    I was going to make the same point.


    DoYoUfInDtHiSaCcEpTaBlE ?
    BTW, I do. While it has broken some rules, it is still coherent and follows a certain order.
    Doesn't work in all situation. Imagine night86mare posts all his replies like this......



  15. #75

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    Rules of composition are much softer rules. In fact, I believe the term "rule" is already very misleading. You can take a large number of pictures, have a large number of people comment on them, and then analyse statistically what properties "good" and "bad" pictures have. You'll find that on average, people prefer horizons to be straight. On average, the main subject is appreciated more if it is off-center. That's all fair and good. The fallacy is to turn these observations around and claim that for a picture to be considered good, it should have a level horizon, and the subject should be off-center. This is complete misinterpretation of the statistics. Yet my impression is that to a significant extent, this is exactly what's happening.

    Of course it would be desirable to have some deeper insight there. But I still believe that a honest "I like it" is better than no response at all or than some "follows/doesn't follow this-or-that-rule" response. All the "rules" are attempts to explain why we like some things, they are not a purpose on their own. The photographer may not understand WHY someone likes/dislikes the picture, but the pure fact that someone DOES (or does not) like it itself is already valuable information, and based on this feedback the photographer may be able to develop his/her own insights what/why it works and what/why it doesn't.
    jUsT 4 50m3 enTerTainMenT, i WiLL rEpLy d1s wAy.

    WeLL iN dAt cAsE iT dEpenDs, d0eS iT n0t, mY brUddeR?

    LiKe wHaT i HaF sAy eArlIeR, iF dA p1c 1Sh g00d, tHeN pRobaBlY iT wiLL nOt wArrAnt a QuOtaTioN oF dA ruL3z. bUt dA rul3z ruLe anD rAwK, s0 iF eU tHinK aBouT iT..

    ok i give up, this is way too slow. point from grumpy taken. anyways, what i was trying to say above, was that if the "breaking of the rules" (which shouldn't be rules, i always like to refer to them as guidelines) works, then it won't warrant those comments.

    the same goes for many other things, does it not - extreme post processing, it can go extremely wrong, it can go extremely right. if a photo gets comments that the PP is overdone, there is a huge difference between such a comment and a comment that "ew, you have obviously done PP here". hope you get my drift.

    so the point of contention here depends on whether the person is actually being too anal, or is actually pointing out (albeit in another manner) that the picture's composition is not good, that they do not like it, and this is the reason why.

    obviously there are people who can produce good photographs without saying why, sometimes without even using any of the "rules" per se.. but certainly you're not going to tell me that you see a beautiful photograph but don't even know why you like it?

    when i said "right" or "wrong", i mean "right" or "wrong" for the individual. i think like it or not, since photography is after all, seen as an art meant to be showcased, do you not agree that a good photograph by logical definition is something that most people like, and a superb, timeless photograph is something that most people like, AND remember for a long time?

    there are definitely no absolutes for photography, i mean, the common layman is going to look at a photo out from a dslr which can handle high iso and say "wow this is a good photograph because it doesn't have those funny red dots". but a hobbyist is going to ask for a higher standard than just noiseless photographs! but i think good composition is something anyone can appreciate.
    On this one, I strongly disagree. For example, I'm not sure what it was that made the Lasagna I had two days ago so delicious. I am sure I liked it a lot!
    as for this, this proves my point about a and b.. you probably wolfed down the lasagna too fast.. before you could think of what was it you really liked about the taste. maybe you don't have terms to describe it, but i'm sure, given time you are going to be able to say stuff like "wow, those tomatoes used to make this sure was fresh! the meat was so succulent", etc.

  16. #76

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    @night86mare

    I agree with your arguments until that part where you insisted that one must know why one liked a pic, or for that matter, anything else in life. If that's case, I suppose no one would ever need to learn about composition, no? Indeed, my world would be a black-and-white if I knew every single reason why I like certain things. Perhaps I lack the vocabulary or perhaps I do not possesss the necessary sensitivities, but I swear that many things have passed me by without me knowing why I liked them. Or maybe I just dont think enough.

    Anyway, that was a bit OT. Back to the topic, for me: as long as the person has put thoughts into arranging / framing his photograph, that is composition. An accidental slanted / tilted horizon just goes to show that not enough effort was put in during composition. And yes, composition does matter. I am not anal about whether any rules were followed or broken, however.

    EDIT: BTW, those uppercase-lowercase thingy...why did peeps even use it in the first place? There will be those who prefer that the message be delivered in a straight forward manner; and there are those who prefer a little variation. Is that acceptible?
    Last edited by osocan; 20th June 2008 at 09:59 PM.

  17. #77

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by osocan View Post
    @night86mare

    I agree with your arguments until that part where you insisted that one must know why one liked a pic, or for that matter, anything else in life. If that's case, I suppose no one would ever need to learn about composition, no? Indeed, my world would be a black-and-white if I knew every single reason why I like certain things. Perhaps I lack the vocabulary or perhaps I do not possesss the necessary sensitivities, but I swear that many things have passed me by without me knowing why I liked them. Or maybe I just dont think enough.
    that is my postulation, that everybody probably has a reason for liking or disliking or feeling anything for everything. but no one has enough time to think it through, so a combination of senses leads us to quick conclusions, be it about people, buildings, food. photography is definitely mostly visual, and people definitely are going to have reasons why they like a photograph, else how do you differentiate your likes from dislikes? are you going to say that there is going to be no reason? certainly there is reason, just that you have not had the time to put it down into solidified words. feelings are not easy to translate to paper, or keyboard, that's what i'm saying.

    cheers.

  18. #78
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    I'm hungry, must eat. I don't know(can't decide) what I want to eat but I know I have to eat. That's a start. If I don't know when I need to eat, its not healthy.

    You've got to have an idea(however vague it is) for your creations. Sometimes you don't feel it but its always there for you to realise and explore further. Those who produces good photos did the latter.

  19. #79
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    If anyone's interested, I found an example illustrating how a horizon is nicely tilted and by no means is it accidental.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/19360733@N05/2589936361

  20. #80

    Default Re: Does Composition Matter Anymore?

    I definitely have an idea of my own creations. But does that equate to KNOWING the reason? Without regurgitating what we have learned from the internet, can anyone explain why he / she or many of us find the golden rule pleasing? What are the reasons? Same goes for the lasagna example...why do we like fresh tomatoes and succulent meat? What are the reasons? Do we know every single reason for everything that we like? We definitely have reasons for our likes and dislikes. I am not too sure, though, that we possess the full knowledge of our motivation.

    I can accept the POV that we are at least vague about the reasons for liking something or someone, but having a vague idea is not knowing.

    Cheers
    Last edited by osocan; 20th June 2008 at 10:57 PM.

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