Anna Hergert, Art & Design

It’s All About Composition

The Photographer's Eye coverThe Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman, Focal Press, 2011               ISBN 978.024.080.934.2

I picked up this book on a whim two years ago and was immediately pulled in not only by the striking photos but the sound information any artist would benefit from.

Michael Freeman delves into color and composition by dissecting the elements and principles of design by providing striking photographic examples with a strong focus on travel. Since I am always drawn in by visuals I was unable to resist owning this book. Once I had my initial “visual feast” I was pulled in by the text.

The author shares in his introduction: “A great deal goes on in the process of making an exposure that is not at all obvious to someone else seeing the result later… …What I will attempt to do here is to show how photographers compose their images, according to their intentions, moods and abilities and how the many skills of organizing an image in the viewfinder can be improved and shared.”

While Freeman elaborates on how the technology of digital photography is an important tool, it is the decisions that a photographer makes that are more important. This book is about those decisions. You may be wondering why I am sharing a photography book on a fiber arts blog. The reason is simple. Sound composition is a vital part of design and principles and elements of design are applicable to all artistic endeavors.

One more quote from the intro: “Most people using a camera for the first time try to master the controls but ignore the ideas. They photograph intuitively, liking or disliking what they see without stopping to think why, and framing the view in the same way. Anyone who does it well is a natural photographer. But knowing in advance why some compositions or certain combinations of colors seem to work better than others, better equips any photographer.” The same holds true for painters, quilters, embroiderer, mixed media artists, etc.

The book is divided into six chapters:

1. The Image Frame (exploring frame dynamics, cropping, stitching and extending, filling the frame, horizon etc) – all these are helpful to all artists.

2. Design Basics (with sections on contrast, pattern and texture, balance, visual weight etc) – excellent information in image and text for anyone exploring principles and elements of design.

3. Graphic and Photographic Elements (covering horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, curves, motion, focus, exposure and a lot more) – this chapter reinforces the design basics touched upon in chapter 2.

4. Composing with Light and Color (a shorter chapter on color, including a section on black and white) – great visuals to further hone observation skills.

5. Intent (a great chapter which made me stop and ponder my own internal motivations and intentions in taking images) – again, this applies to all textile artists.

6. Process (covering the search for order, anticipation, juxtaposition and more)

When I first read about this book I wondered how the topic of composition could take over 190 pages. The six chapters do it exceptionally well and provide readers with great ideas, examples, theory and suggested exercises. I particularly like that this book challenges the reader to look at their own intentions and processes.

I believe I don’t have to mention it again but it is important to point out that the images in this book compliment the words well. Not only do you get photos but also a variety of detailed diagrams that illustrate what you’re seeing in the images by reducing them to lines and shapes. This gives the examples a lot more usefulness as they are effectively dissected for the reader.

The book is available in soft cover and ePub format. Check if you library can reserve it for you. And remember, if you need to renew it twice, you might have to order your own copy…

This entry was published on March 21, 2014 at 12:06 am. It’s filed under Art, Book Review, Creativity Update, Design, Journaling, Photography & Events, Sharing Resources and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “It’s All About Composition

  1. Judith KH on said:

    Anna I found this Blog Post informative and thought- provoking. In highlighting Freeman’s emphasis on the importance of colour and composition, which you rightfully see as applying not just to photography but to composition and design in art, you remind me of the challenges for someone with colour vision deficiencies of ‘envisioning’ what others see, not only in particular compositions, whether they be scenes to capture in a photo, actual photos, or other works of art; but also in printed words whether they be on the pages of a book,a brochure, blog post or other on-line presentation. May I recommend that you try a deeper- coloured and slightly larger print for your own blog posts that are always so interesting to read?


    • Thank you for weighing with your feedback, Judith. I appreciate your suggestion to change font color and larger print. These are two things that are completely put of my control. The blog theme comes with a preset font and size and I cannot change this from my end. I am considering upgrading my blog theme at a later date, but this involves my transferring images and workshop descriptions from my website which involves a considerable time and financial investment. I am offering this blog for free and therefore am limited somewhat in what colors and fonts are available. I had tested a black background with white print at an earlier time. I found websites with a black interface and white print are hard on the eyes as well and take much longer to load. As someone who is connected to the internet with a slow and very limited satellite connection My hands are often tied. Thanks for your understanding and your loyal following thus far.


      • Judith KH on said:

        Thanks Anna for your kind response to my suggestion. You always do your best, I know, and I appreciate your reply about the restraints within which you must work on the blog site. Variances in colour perception and ability to read print size, and creative ways of addressing such variances is something I think many media people don’t think about much,, so it would not occur to them that their design features could be problematic for some people. Each time such issues are raised, though, can be one more way of spreading awareness, and bringing about changes helpful to those with vision variances from the norm. Thank you for your own sensitivity to this issue.


      • Please rest assured that I continue to make improvements to my blog as additional tools become available.


  2. Joyce McKinnon on said:

    Hi Anna,
    Thanks for sharing info about this book. It looks like it would be a very useful one for both of my daughters and myself.
    I hope you are capturing signs of spring .


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