How to Compose a Picture
June 18, 2012 1:23 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to learn more about visual composition, especially for photography and painting. Are there any books or websites you would recommend as a primer to the subject?
posted by lirael2008 to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
You might like some of David Hockney's books. For example "That's the Way I see it" or "Re-discovering lost techniques of the old masters".
posted by rongorongo at 3:51 AM on June 18, 2012

Best answer: Michael Freeman: The Photographer's Eye is as beautiful as it is inspiring.
posted by violinflu at 4:02 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Guardian newspaper's Eyewitness picture series features an outstanding photograph, chosen by the paper's head of photography, each day to be shown in the paper's centrefold. Each picture features a "pro tip" which relates to how it was taken or composed. If you have an Ipad then they have a free app which lets you view the series.
posted by rongorongo at 4:26 AM on June 18, 2012

I also came in to recommend The Photographer's Eye. It's tips on composition definitely helped me think more about why some images work when others don't.
posted by divisjm at 4:51 AM on June 18, 2012

Its. Curse you, autocorrect.
posted by divisjm at 4:51 AM on June 18, 2012

I'd also recommend The Photographer's Eye and, along with it, David duChemin's Photographically Speaking, which is the latest in an excellent series of books on the craft of photography.
posted by gmb at 5:05 AM on June 18, 2012

Best answer: The Art of Composition by Trinka Margua Simon

It's quite good, with solid exercises and teaching. Excerpt.

A friend lent me her copy, and I need to buy my own.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:28 AM on June 18, 2012

Arthur Wesley Dow's Composition is a classic -- he advocates a very specific style, but his work was the foundation for studio art courses as they are still taught today -- and it's a beautiful book to boot. It is a textbook, so it has exercises for students included, if that's of interest.

It's also available for free online in various forms, as I know to my chagrin as an art history professor who tries, and fails, to get her students to go look at the first or second edition in person every now and then.
posted by obliquicity at 10:56 AM on June 18, 2012

I recommend Dow as well. But I think the Art of Composition is rather better.

I'd also push Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes, by Jack Hamm.

Get all three, but get the Art of Composition first.

I'd add New Munsell Student Color Set, along with Gurney's Light and Color and Imaginative Realism, at some point.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:10 AM on June 18, 2012

I'd recommend Henry Rankin Poore's Pictorial Composition (Composition in Art).
posted by release the hardwoods! at 4:42 PM on June 18, 2012

Best answer: It may help to read some chunks of Stapleton Kearns's blog.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:48 AM on June 19, 2012

Gurney's recent post is about about Loomis's Creative Illustration, which is mostly about composition. now to get off my duff and do dozens of tiny composition thumbnails.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:36 PM on June 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I've added these suggested titles to my to-read list. :)
posted by lirael2008 at 11:56 PM on June 19, 2012

If you are hardcore, I would suggest the Bargue Drawing Course. If you do this, combine self study with some guidance from a local attelier: "I'm working on a bargue drawing. Can you critique it if I bring it to the painting workshop?" (There's a bit of direct transmission with this stuff, you'll want some guideance from a higher-order initiate.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:52 PM on June 20, 2012

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