On the beginning it was the camera. And the novel photographer, willing to learn, has to understand how it works. But once the photographer already knows the fundamentals of photography, and knows how the camera works, a new doubt arises: How can I make better pictures? One of the topics related with making great pictures is composition. Many photographers have seen along their learning process the rule of the thirds, for example, but very few will have acquired a true knowledge on the rules behind composing.
The Photographer’s Eye is the contribution of Michael Freeman to this field. Freeman, a professional photographer famous for his reportages, is also a widely recognized writer and teacher. With this book he provides a complete course about composition, from the most basic rules to the advanced relationships between them. After reading it, the photographer is no more an empty carcass just waiting for a scene to happen, or just photographing whatever happens in front of his eyes in an automatic manner. Instead, you will start viewing the scenes decomposed in planes, lines and contrasts. You will find subtle figures and start changing your position to fit them in a creative way. You will spend time thinking if the color combinations are good or what is the best place to take the picture, foreseeing what is likely to happen in the next minutes.
The book starts analyzing framing, and the different possibilities and implications it has: filling it, aligning objects to the borders, etc. After that, a study of the different elements of expression in photography is performed, starting with the simpler ones as points and lines, and advancing to shapes, closures and other subtle elements. The bases of design are also studied, like how to create tension in a picture, how to play with equilibrium and how to play with our subjects, backgrounds or the rhythm to make our picture say what we want. Finally, subjective elements are described, showing how they can alter the perception and impressions of the viewer about our pictures. Some of these elements are the surprise factor, exploration, anticipation, etc.
In general, it is a very complete book in the topic. If you are looking for more advanced material you would need to find specialized books in art or phycology, but for the average photographer (even the average professional photographer) this book is more than enough to improve the composition techniques to a new level. The book is very well written, with an entertaining writing style and enough fluid to not getting stuck in the middle of it.
Finally, the book is well populated with many photographs taken by the author, where the studied concepts can be seen. Also, some of those pictures are decomposed and analyzed in some cases, as more detailed examples. Sometimes more compositions about the same picture can be seen, and the process that implied creating them and choosing amongst them is considered.
As a summary, it is a really good recommendation for any photographer wishing to improve the quality of their work. Even for photographers with their own stablished style; it will allow opening the mind to new composition formulas and different approaches.
Clearness: 5 / 5. (The higher the better).
Specificity: 4.5/5. (Higher doesn’t mean better).
Applicability: 4/5. (Higher tends to be better).
Graphical content: 4.5/5 (The higher, the better).
Title: The Photographer’s Eye.
Author: Michael Freeman.
ISBN: 978-1-905-81404-6 (paperback).