This week, we are going to chart out the entire life of a photographer.
What's up, welcome back to the Composition Madhouse, last week we were talking about photography and design and about how one of the main reasons why we've got this weird obsessions with gear when it really doesn't matter is that photographers don't typically study design. And in photography that's hard, it's just design. So, if photography is just like design, then what's the difference? Well, the main difference between photography and design is the starting point. The starting point of most types of photography is subtraction where the starting point of graphic design is addition. So, think about what actually happens. If you're a graphic designer, you open up Illustrator and you've got a blank slate. You may have a few design elements, a palette or a logo or something, but you start generally blank. And you start adding things into that palette. And you start adding things into that blank slate. When most people start off with photography, you go into a party or a family gathering, and there's just stuff everywhere. If you think about that party as a visual composition, and you start taking it apart, you can see that there's all sorts of disparate shapes, and lines, and directions and colors and temperatures and all of these things that take stuff out.
This week, we're specifically going to talk about two things. First, we're going to talk about the two main stages that every single photographer goes through to become great. Normally when people first start getting into photography, something happens like this. They see online or they see someone's pictures and they think it's super cool. And they think that, "Wow, what I really need is to get a nice camera." So they go and they do a bunch of research and they drop a few hundred dollars on a nice camera, and they start taking pictures and there is this immediate high of, "Wow. That looks incredible." But, soon thereafter, they come and they realize that, "My pictures aren't that good. I mean, they're marginally better, and we all know that's just because of a bigger sensor and a nicer lens, but they're not really that much better." So what do we do? Well, we either search online or we take a photography class or something like this and the photographer, the teacher starts telling us, "You need to have a subject in your photos, you need to be taking a picture of something. Why don't you fill the frame with something?"
So, you go out and you start doing those things. You start filling your frame with whatever it is you're taking a picture of, you make sure you've got a subject. And that's awesome. You look at your pictures and you think, "This is a million times better than anything I've been doing before." And then the same thing happens again, is that you feel like, "Well, there's got to...I look at these dude and they've got great, great, amazing work, and I look at mine and it's cool, but not that good." So, to get a little better handle on the progression of a photographer, what do I actually have to do to become a better photographer? The entire progression of a photographer look just like this. Every photographer, in their progression to master their skill, there is two main stages.
The first stage is simplification. The second stage is complexification. What's that stuff about? When you first start taking photos, you normally go to a party or you go to a family gathering, or you enter a room or you go into a park and you take a photo and there is just crap everywhere. If you think in terms of simply design, you've got tons of different shapes and different sizes and different colors, and different textures and it's just a smattering of design elements that aren't harmonious, that don't have a flow, that don't have a balance to it. So, the first step is always simplification. Simplifying the composition. The first step to becoming a great photographer is learning all the ways to simplify a composition. In the next video, we're going to look at all of the ways to simply a composition. There is nine, and there is only nine. After you master those nine, of course it takes a lifetime to master those, but you can get a good handle after a few years.
After you master those nine ways to simplify a composition, the next step is to complexify the composition. Now, before we talk about complexifications, we've got to get some definitions on board here, because simplification and complexification aren't exactly what you think they are. Simplicity is not just a reduced number of visual elements. Not having a bunch of subjects or not having a bunch of visual elements. Simplicity is two things. Negatively, it is not having anything extraneous in the photo. Negatively, a simple composition is not having very few things in it, but it is not having any extraneous visual elements or subjects. Not having things in the composition that shouldn't be. A simple composition doesn't necessarily mean there's very few subjects. So negatively, it means there is not extra stuff in there, and positively, a simple composition means a composition where the elements in there are properly ordered. That they are harmonious. That there is a narrative to them.
That there is a proper relation between those two things. So the next video is going to be about all the means of simplification. In the next 60 videos after that, those are all going to be about complexification, and all the ways to complexify a composition. So, when we talk about making a composition more complex, we are not saying that it ceases to be simple. In the words of Neal Plantinga, he said, "There is a simplicity that is past complexity, but yet that includes it." I'll say it again. "There is a simplicity past complexity that includes it." And what does that mean in visual composition? In visual composition, that means that though you have additional visual elements or subjects, they are all properly ordered, there's a harmony, a flow, a rightness about those relations. Many of the great painters will construct their compositions in a way that there is a visual entrance into the composition or a multiple and then you are lead around, by means of composition, through the whole piece, and then you can exit.
So if simple composition is superior, why would you complexify it? Well, two analogies. First musical. If you play one note, it's perfectly lovely. But, if you start adding in notes, two, three, four, six. There starts to be relationships between the notes to bring out textures and colors and dynamics that you didn't experience before. Or think about a story. You can have a story about one person. And it can be interesting. But when you start adding a boyfriend, a mother, a grandfather, they are specific characters and they start interacting in different ways. Grandfather to daughter. Daughter to mother. Mother to stepson. All of these different relationships start bringing out the beauty and the redemption or ugliness of that narrative and so it is with visual composition. You complexify it because you can bring a higher order of beauty when you start to bring together these different visual elements and subjects and colors and shapes together that you couldn't have with one element. Thanks so much for stopping by this week. Stay tuned because in next week we're going to look at all of the nine ways to simplify your compositions.