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The Photographer's Eye By Michael Freeman

Express Summary

Book Cover

The Photographer's Eye, Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, is a book devoted to photographic composition. This is an elusive topic which is most difficult to teach and equally difficult to master. While most photography books devote a chapter to composition, this is insufficient to learn anything more than a few basic rules.

Michael Freeman's book visually illustrates photographic composition with hundreds of images and many diagrams to dissect what contributes to an image's successful composition. The book covers elements of composition, design principles, intent and finishes with the process of choosing and creating well-composed images.

This 192-page book is clear enough to help people struggling with composition as well as those who already understand its basics but wish to improve further.

Book Review

Photography involves technical and creative aspects. Of the latter, composition is arguably the most important. As a creative aspect, composition is not only difficult to teach, it is highly elusive for those who try to understand it. Michael Freeman, in this book, tries to organize this topic and keep it creative, rather than turn it into rules which stifle creativity rather than expand it.

The Photographer's Eye teaches composition using many captivating photographs to illustrate each point and various creative possibilities. Illustrations of shapes and principal directions isolate important elements when clarification is needed. A number of subjects are studied using multiple images to illustrate the impact of different compositions. To grasp a creative aspect like this, examples are needed and Michael Freeman supplies them in great numbers.

This book is divided into six chapters. Four chapters are devoted to aspects of composition and their impact on an image. The remaining two are concerned with translating intent and action into composition. This is very important because many good compositions exist for a given subject but not all communicate the same thing about it. Process is essential to achieving a desired composition, otherwise one may learn to recognize good composition but not the way to produce it.

Chapter 1: The Image Frame covers the intrinsic cropping of a subject by the camera and its impact on the image. On one hand, the interaction between the frame and subjects are explained. On the other, the photographer's interaction and manipulation of the frame are shown to also affect the perception of a subject.

The classic view of composition, although in much greater depth than usual, is covered in Chapter 2: Design Basics. Topics such as contrast, balance, pattern and perspective are well explained here.

Chapter 3: Graphics & Photographic Elements dissects images' simple constituents such as points, lines, curves, shapes and vectors. The impact of each of these elements are discussed in great detail, with diagrams to highlight them when needed.

Chapter 4: Composing with Light and Color considers the impact of exposure and color on composition. This topic is most often forgotten when discussing composition but its impact is not to be underestimated as a viewer's reaction to a photograph is highly influenced by both light and color.

A moderately short Chapter 5: Intent covers the relation between a photographer's message and composition. Composition is a representation of the photographer's intent and therefore this chapter covers one of the most important decisive aspects a photography.

The final Chapter 6: Process is the first attempt at helping photographers learn how to come up with an appropriate composition. This is an extremely interesting chapter that provides relevant advice to compose photographs given a subject, situation and intent.

Overall, this book is excellent in its treatment of such an abstract subject like composition. The text is clear and well-written, with an adequate amount of detail. Photos accompanying the text are striking, dynamic and varied to illustrate different aspects of composition. It is not actually possible for any book to teach someone to be a master of composition, but this one covers a lot of valuable ground in that direction. Of particular importance is the coverage of the process to find a good composition to represent the photographer's message.

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