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Learning to Photograph - Volume 2: Visual Concepts and Composition [Paperback]

Cora Banek , Georg Banek

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Book Description

6 Sep 2013

The two volumes of the Learning to Photograph series give students and interested amateur photographers essential information about technique and design as well as an understanding of the big concepts of photography. Beginning and advanced photographers alike will find the content instructive, thoroughly explained, and effectively illustrated, making this book a useful resource for readers to develop their own craft.

This second volume addresses the topics of visual design and composition. The authors describe various methods of visual design and how you can use these methods effectively. You will learn which techniques to use to design your images while at the same time training your photographic eye. You will develop the ability to support the message of your subject purposefully, hone your photographic style, and analyze your own work and the work of others competently.

The striking images and informational graphics not only illustrate the concepts at hand, but also make the lessons visually pleasing and offer useful examples for readers to mimic in their own work.

Topics include:

  • Visual perception
  • Composition, shapes, and lines
  • Managing light
  • Color and its effects
  • Sharpness, blur, and movement
  • The interplay of visual design elements
  • Image analysis and evaluation
The previous volume in the Learning to Photograph series addresses cameras, equipment, and basic photographic techniques.

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About the Author

Born in 1981, Cora has been photographing since 2002. Her craft is unique in that she almost always has the finished, edited image in her mind when she releases the shutter. She opts to shoot infrequently but with great intention and purpose. Cora's visual language is clean and quiet. She likes light, bright images featuring harmonious, subtle, and desaturated colors, and she is a borderline perfectionist when it comes to designing her images. Her award-winning photography has been exhibited in international competitions.

Cora's diverse photographic interests include portrait, beauty, fashion, nude, erotic, and floral photography. Top quality color management is a part of her daily craft, which she produces consistently for initial exposures, fine-art prints, and everything in between.

Professionally trained in the cultural sciences, she works as a freelance graphic designer and photo editor for exacting photography publications. Together with Georg, she also works as a writer for magazine and book publishers and develops concepts for educational materials about photography. Her contract work ranges from stylish arrangement and ideal lighting for product photography to portraits and aesthetic nude and erotic images. She directs the contract photography curriculum for the artist's workshop at Artepictura. Additional information can be found at artepictura-atelier.de.

Born in 1969, Georg has been photographing since 1984. His style is characterized by approaching his subjects closely, playing with sharpness and blur, and designing loudly and colorfully with off-kilter perspectives. His attention to detail is common across his interests in portrait, lifestyle, erotic, nude, travel, and detail photography. He sees subjects in everyday scenes that others tend to miss and he excels at capturing these details with a spontaneous and instinctive shooting style, though he prefers to thoroughly prepare portrait shoots conceptually.

His contract work as a photographer centers on lifestyle images, everyday scenes, and employee and company profiles. For the past five years, he and Cora have written for photography textbooks and magazines. Georg studied economics and social education, and as a management consultant he pairs his photographic expertise with extensive experience in project management and sales to help corporate clients with their visual representation and professional image design needs.

Georg has devised and independently built three structured courses of study for photography, including the photography department at the college in Rhein-Main, the photography school at the university in Lueneburg, and Artepictura Academy (artepictura-akademie.de). He is currently earning a teaching degree in Media Management in Wiesbaden.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Designing the Photograph 21 Sep 2013
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Books on photographic composition usually give exactly the same advice so it's probably not necessary to read more than one or two. After that, most photographers would be better off spending their time analyzing images, both their own and those of others, to see how those images were composed, advice to which the Baneks subscribe.

It's been a long time since I read a basic composition book, although I have looked at several that are aimed at specific genres, like landscape or wildlife. I thought it was time to consider one of these more general books. After all, technology has come a long way in the last few years, and it might have had an impact on composition. Learning to Photograph Volume 2 is one of the newest composition books on the market. As with most composition books, the authors advise the reader that there are no rules for composition, and then proceed to give principles which look remarkably like rules. The authors advise against being bound by these principles but I suspect that the beginners at whom this book is aimed would be better served by keeping these principles in mind in their early efforts, as long as they recognize that they will have to choose between sometimes competing principles. The principles covered are comprehensive and are those with which older hands will be familiar, like positioning the camera, less is more and the rule of thirds. Many of these are not intuitive, so the tyro would do well to study them carefully so that they stay in mind. The authors' written explanations are clear and interesting, although lacking in much of a sense of humor. Each point is profusely illustrated with photographs.

The beginner should be warned that many of the illustrations are "edgy" even if appropriate. I may sound like an old fogey (which I indeed am) but a beginner would be wise to stick to more conventional approaches. It's too bad that the authors didn't provide more examples that use conventional approaches.

Occasionally the authors try to explain concepts, like the interplay of design elements, in terms that are difficult to grasp even if accurate. Go slow when you hit these points and wrap your mind around these ideas.

The authors failed to mention that some compositional faults, like an angled horizon, could be fixed in post processing. Of course it's better to get it right in the camera but some unavoidable negative compositional factors can be corrected in Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop.

When I had finished reading this book I realized that the principles of design and composition of images had not changed that much over the years (and perhaps over the centuries). I found that this book provided an adequate explanation of them for the beginning photographer.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant guide to the why and how of composing good photographs 20 Sep 2013
By Cerys - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Right up front I want to say this is the best photography book I have seen for actually helping you to understand how to take a good picture! Thoroughly recommended.

I'm a keen photographer and although I have created images I'm very pleased with, I often find the image doesn't come out the way I had hoped despite having many photography books and having done courses. These all tend to have a focus on the technical side of photography but lack assistance on the creative side. The best help I have had in the past has been criticism and advice from a professional photographer. This book is even better! There is so much helpful information that is backed up by well explained theory about what different effects have to people's perception of an image, and how doing different things will change the effect of the image. The book encourages you to embrace and develop your own personal style by telling you if you do this you will have a calming image, but change it in this way for a dynamic image. It encourages you to see more and think more when you compose your pictures whilst provide a much greater understanding as to how to get the shot you want, and why a shot may not have worked as you hoped.

This book doesn't give you a list of `rules' for designing images, but provides you with a wealth of explanation on how people perceive images, how different design elements come together to make a successful image, and different techniques and tips for how to utilise these different elements effectively for yourself. The book is very easy to read, but also packed full of interesting material and excellent advice. Each chapter has many photographs and diagrams to illustrate points about the theory and effects that are discussed in the text, making it very clear and easy to see what the authors mean and how this might apply to your own work.

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the topic of image design, and the various factors that influence both what we choose to take photos of, the way that we perceive images, the design process, and how image design can be used to provoke different feelings and messages in others. Chapter 2 discusses the elements of composition, choosing what to include in the image, how to arrange them, the choice of frame, and changing perspective, field sizes, cropping, and visual elements. This chapter provides very interesting descriptions of the effects that these different elements have on our perception of an image. Common `rules' of photography that you may have heard of such as the `golden ratio' and the use of grids are also discussed.

Chapter 3 covers how the shapes, orientations, and positions of different elements in an image affect the feel and perception of the image including discussions on points, lines, structures and the shapes of different objects. Chapter 4 discusses topics such as positioning, stand point and point of view, and perspective. There is a technical discussion about lenses and additionally considerations for digital camera users. Chapter 5 discusses the essential topic of light to photography, including information about different types of natural and artificial light, the effects of the direction that the light comes from and how to get the best out of different conditions, how to work effectively with shadows including how to overcome problems of lack of detail, and managing light.

Chapter 6 provides an introduction to colours, how they work and the emotions that they evoke in people. Topics such as colour brightness, tones, saturation, high key and low key, colour combinations, special colours, contrasts and black and white imaging are discussed in detail. The chapter concludes with tips for using colour as a subject in images. Chapter 7 discusses how to use sharpness and blur in images, including the use of focus, depth of field, and topics related to capturing or avoiding movement such as shutter speeds, intentional and motion blur, panning, and image sequences. Chapter 8 brings the techniques and ideas from the previous chapters together by looking at the overall effect with guidance on combining multiple design elements together and how the presentation of the image can affect the viewer's perceptions. Tips are also given on how to develop your image design skills through practice and focusing on different elements.

The final chapter provides guidance on how to constructively analyses and evaluate images. As well as helping you to analyse your own photographs these tips can help you to appreciate the works of others and distill the elements that make an image successful that you can include in your own work and personal style, examples of image analyses are provided that effectively demonstrate the process. Tips are also given on how to handle criticism of your own work and how to be constructive in your criticism of others. Examples of common image design mistakes are also provided.

Thoroughly recommended. I expect to return to this book again and again for advice and inspiration.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fewer pictures "of" something; and more photos "about" something 19 Nov 2013
By John Quinn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
When I begin the first semester class each year, a lot of time gets spent on camera settings...shallow & deep DoF, freezing-recording motion, exposure-focus-metering modes, exposure-flash compensation, exposure bracketing and drive modes. Once the Lads get a handle on that information, it's time to turn a corner. It's less about picking up a camera, pointing it at a subject and taking a picture "OF" something...and figuring out how to make interesting, compelling, stories "ABOUT" an idea or concept or strong subject.

This is where Learning to Photograph -- Vol. 2 kicks in...highlighting all of the areas which go into the making of interesting "stories through images". By breaking down the elements of lighting and composition, this book shows beginning digital photography students how to move toward making photos, instead of simply taking pictures. Budding photographers need terms and concepts to help them build an image which is worth a 1,000 words.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning to Photograph Volume 2 23 Dec 2013
By Nathan Gutman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you have read "Learning to Photograph, Vol. 1" by same authors you have learned to understand the camera. In this volume the authors show you how to create engaging images which will resonate with viewers. You will find that to create great photographs you need more than just point the camera and click the shutter. You will learn how to design and compose images which will attract and hold the viewer's eye. How light, its nature and direction, the secret of where to stand, can make or break a photo. This book is superbly produced with many great sample photographs that clearly demonstrate the principles the authors intended to show. This book is a indispensable resource for anyone interested in making award winning photographs.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Begginers Book only- 13 May 2014
By Naz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sorry to say, this was yet another book for beginners- very basic stuff- The book started out good, and looked like it was really going to delve into the psychology behind things like line, color, light, and what makes a photo work, but then it just really reverted right back to very basic stuff- Wish I had taken the time to read the excerpts before buying- but I didn't- My mistake- I'm giving it 3 stars because every now and again the book gave tips that were a little above beginner level, but unfortunately they were far and few between- would have been nice to see more examples and talk on things like Gestalt theory- more indepth color analysis rather than the very basic 'yellow colors are warm and calming' etc- oh well-
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