David Hoptman professional photographer/artist, founder of photo creative workshops teaches photography online. He has lived in Santa Fe New Mexico for most of his adult life. David was teaching photography at the Santa Fe University of art and design, prior to that living in Italy, David taught photography at two colleges in Florence. He has created a new style of teaching that works both in person, as well as online. “The idea is to regulate the interrelationships of forms by understanding how to navigate and locate the best perspective” says David.
David sets the foundation for composition and composure as follows:
The first step in composing a good photograph is to begin by composing yourself. Slow down and focus on the moment, no multi-tasking, and don’t get sidetracked. The longer you stay focused while searching and re-orienting yourself within your immediate environment to understand the interrelationship of the forms, the better chance you will have of creating a harmonious and poignant photographic image. You are the composer; it is you who determines how forms are interspersed within your rectangular viewfinder when making photographs. You regulate the interrelationships of forms by understanding how to navigate and locate the best perspective within your chosen environment, defining the outcome of your photographic composition.
David then explains how perceive objective reality as forms:
The goal is to perceive our objective reality as forms. Drop the labels perceive the forms, keeping in mind; labels reduce forms to cold ideologies. Trees are transposed into vertical forms, sidewalks rectangular forms, streets are linear forms, etc. Maintaining the visual integrity of each form is the fundamental goal when creating a harmonious composition. Forms should reflect and project harmony, not confusion. How to create harmony within your frame is to be acutely aware of how forms interrelate with each other’s composition. When possible, keep the forms within your composition from overlapping, intersecting, or becoming tangent with one another. When forms overlap, the integrity of each form is compromised leading to perceptual confusion.
David then explains how to use your LCD monitor for arranging forms:
When out making photographs keep in mind that the first photo you take is the introductory image. You will never finalize a good composition without taking the time to interact and become acquainted with your environment. After each photograph you take, it is necessary to view your resulting image on your LCD monitor that has now magically transformed your external reality into a flat two-dimensional facsimile. View your LCD monitor/viewfinder around the edges of your frame to be sure you are not inadvertently cutting off forms or jumbling forms within the interior of your composition. Continue to view your photograph and look for places where forms overlap or intersect each other. The challenge is to navigate to a location within your environment where the least number of overlapping forms occur while not cutting off forms on the edge of your viewfinder. You can walk forwards, backward, left, right, or raise your camera higher or lower, those are the limitations photographers share when attempting to create a harmonious insightful composition. It only takes a few steps or inches to affect the overall composition. When you begin to understand that your interaction within your chosen environment creates harmony or dissonance within your viewfinder you will be on the way to making poignant imagery. Photographers that make the best photographs also make the best compromises and decisions. Like a chess board, when you move one piece you must be aware of how it will affect the overall relationships of the other pieces on the board, the same idea applies to arranging your photographic composition.
David explains the importance of shadows as forms:
Last but not least, keep in mind that shadows are underappreciated forms that typically go unnoticed in our daily life. Shadows within a two-dimensional art form such as photography have just as much importance as mountains, clouds, or any other forms within your photograph. Shadows and highlights are visual condiments as are salt and pepper is to food. Spice it up!
David Hoptman’s Compositional Mantra:
- Don’t Lose Your Focus
- Stop=slow down
- Look=tune into your environment
- Focus=on the moment
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Perceptive skills, Imagination, intuition are foundational qualities needed by everyone striving to make harmonious insightful photographic imagery. The key is to slow down, be in the moment, and understand how to work with relationships of space and forms.