The photographer’s eye

June 16, 2011

The photographer’s eye: Composition and design for better digital photos | title
Michael Freeman | author
Focal Press, 2007 | publisher
978-0-240-80934-2 | isbn
Paperback, 192 | # of pages

Highly recommended | rating
Buy this book through this link and help support this blog

Currently one of the best-selling books on composition for photographer’s, covers not only visual language but also the process of selecting subjects and semantic intents (conveying meaning through composition).


The book is composed mostly of examples and diagrams, taking most of page space. In the first part of the book, especially when dealing with underlying visual structure, each example is presented with a copy with vectors and other schematics overlaid, which helps comprehension greatly. Print quality is very good, diagrams are clear, text is well laid-out and legible. The square format of the book works well with the many variations in page layout caused by the different examples, though coupled with the soft cover it makes reading slightly uncomfortable while holding it (the wide pages are always significantly bent). This small nuisance can be nullified, of course, by reading it on a table.


There are 6 chapters, each one with approximately 30 pages. The first one is about framing, including aspect rations, cropping, placement and other considerations. The next two chapters cover visual structure, giving a very brief introduction to gestalt and defining aspects such as contrast, balance, vectors and so on. This first half might be of more use to those who have absolutely no background in visual arts: the concepts are easy to grasp due to their tangibility (especially with the examples). The reader gets a basic idea of what is presented by a photograph besides its meaning (the semantic aspect).

The second half of the book focuses on more global aspects (such as light and color) and as so might require a bit more practice followed by a second or third readings by the inexperienced photographer, as they are less tangible. The last chapter in particular is quite interesting to get an insight on the different approaches to photography as a process, including a case study that shows how he took a specific photograph (including the attempts that were not selected).

Overall the book is quite superficial (each topic is explained in 2-4 pages) and that in itself is not a problem, considering it is not meant to be the last book the aspiring photographer will read on the subject. My only criticism is the fact that this is never mentioned and there is no guidance for further reading. The book actually lacks a conclusion: it is simply cut-off after the last chapter, so I would be pleased to see that included in a future edition, where other books could be recommended.

Target audience

Photography nowadays is practiced mostly by people without any background in visual arts. Because of that, the classic literature on composition might not help them at all, due to the lack of examples and practical use of the concepts, as well as sometimes going into issues specific to painting. This book fills in this gap: the language is simple, the examples connect the concepts to real-world applications and approaches the subject from a photographer’s point of view. Even for those who have previous study in visual language it might be useful by getting to see it applied to photography. For those who have learned the technical aspects of photography (such as camera operation) or are interested in it as a technology this book is invaluable to widen their perspectives. Experienced photographers or artists might consider the book too superficial for their needs or might understand that many of the facts there presented can sometimes be completely ignored in virtue of others.


Highly recommended

Buy this book through this link and help support this blog


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