Composition & Selection

Two possibly related posts attracted my attention this morning as I trawled though the latest on my newsreader. The first on Petapixel was Ignoring the Rule of Thirds: When and Why ‘Bad’ Composition Works, which was essentially a link to a 5 minute YouTube video episode of Brain Flick ‘Why does “bad” framing work? – A look at the psychology behind a pleasing image‘. The video examines the use of framing in a TV programme I’ve never seen or heard of, Mr Robot – and if you share that lack of knowledge with me, Mr Robot: Uncoventional Framing may also be worth a look.

I’ve never been a great fan of the ‘rule of thirds’, and was certainly introduced to ‘unconventional framing’ early in my photographic life by the Nathan Lyons book ‘Notations in Passing’. The ‘rule of thirds’ has some use as a way of weaning beginners from the tendency to put every subject dead in the middle of the frame – something that reduced me to a fit a giggles when I once attended an evening class on photography and the tutor showed his work. It – or rather the ‘golden ratio’ to which it is an approximation – has a long history in art, but I’ve always liked images that – in both physical and emotional respects – were more ‘edgy’.

The only real compositional rule is I think one that comes from Minor White, as the text to one of his ‘Three Canons’, “Let the subject generate its own composition.” Unfortunately the image it accompanies (I think a stove in the centre of a church in Arizona, its slightly bent pipe going up to the ceiling in an otherwise symmetrical composition) doesn’t seem to be available on the web. I first met it in the monumental ‘Mirrors, Message and Manifestations’ (which I couldn’t afford but borrowed from our National Library which appeared to be the only UK Library with a copy – which took several months for my local library to obtain and required my signature in blood to borrow for a few weeks,) but I think it is the same image as on page 31 in the later and annoyingly unpaginated ‘Rites & Passages’.

The second post ‘New Software Promises to Take the Grunt Work Out of Ranking Your Images‘ was on PDNPulse a few months ago but I came across it again this morning. The software it refers to, then called Picturesqe but now Picturio, uses artificial intelligence to ‘help you select your best shots’. It identifies simiilar images and judges things like sharpness and exposure, but then, according to PDNPulse:

As the software learns about your images and style, it will grow more sophisticated and be able to rank images based on factors such as sharpness, color harmony and composition.

There is a free version, but this is rather limited, offering ‘Automatic grouping’, ‘Aesthetic ranking’ and ‘Intelligent zoom’ on jpegs only and for only up to 1,500 photos a month – probably a day’s work for many pros. Paid for versions – on a monthly subscription basis – handle more photos (though not that many more), raw formats and integrate with Lightroom. But for the professional version the monthly cost is around the same as we now pay for both Lightroom and Photoshop.

However there are some useful features, and if it really works the time saved should make it worthwhile paying for many. But I’m just a little sceptical. The images that really grab my interest are those that surprise me in some way rather than fit in with my preconceptions, and I have a suspicion that this software might well label some of them as trash because they are in some way uncoventional. Personally I’ll keep doing a relatively quick review before import using FastPictureViewer Professional to select those images to import and then Lightroom itself to pick those I’ll actually use.

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