50mm Lens and composition workshop

Is a good prime lens the best way to learn composition? There are many blog posts singing the praises of a prime lens and about how the best way to learn composition is to use a prime lens. Using a prime lens is certainly one way to learn composition, but it is not the best or only way. Without the guidance or input of others, no form of artwork can truly grow. Growth in any part of life requires interactions and input from a community. Perhaps the best way to learn photography is from a good teacher.

One of the reasons many believe that the best way to learn composition is with a prime lens is because it severely limits the composition choices a photographer can make. By limiting our choices, we are pushed to think harder and differently to get to our composition. In other words by creating a smaller box, we're pushed to think outside the box. But you do not need to use a prime lens to create such constraints. For instance, what about shooting in just a square format, like what one does on instagram? You can also shoot only in black and white or in any other monochrome setting. What about shooting with a fisheye? What about limiting yourself to just a horizontal or just a vertical frame?

There are many ways in which to learn composition. But to say that there is only one best way is very misleading. It is as if to say that the best way to learn how to paint is to use particular brush with a particular color of paint. By creating constraints, we are certainly pressed to look at the world differently and there is certainly merit in this. However, it is not the singular answer or the best way.

Burning and dodging photo terminology

So now for the opposite of our last term (burning).

Dodging: You would be dodging the light from hitting the paper and therefore making the area lighter. Generally you would tape a small round piece of paper to the end of a skinny stick and wave it over areas you wanted to be lighter. It looked a lot like a lollipop, which is the symbol Photoshop uses.

Burning-Photography terminology

Time for another photo term definition and a return to the days of developing film.

Burning: When you made an enlargement of a photo, you had to project the negative onto a piece of light sensitive photo paper. The longer you allowed it to project on the paper, the darker it got. So if you wanted one area to be darker than another area, you would put your index finger and your thumb together to make a hole and allow more light to pass. Hence you were burning the picture. And, if you look closely at the symbol Photoshop uses for burning, it's an image of a hand making a hole with the first finger touching the thumb. Usually you used 2 hands in real life, but it's close enough.

Photography definitions

Hey, remember in school when you had a vocab quiz on Fridays? Here's a throwback for you then. Have you ever wondered where some of the terms in Photoshop come from like burning or dodging? Let's learn a few.

Contact Sheet: A contact sheet is a print out of thumbnails. So why is it called a contact sheet? Because in the old days of film you would take strips of negatives and organize them on photo paper and put a piece of glass on top to hold down the negatives. So then the negative made contact with the paper, hence a contact sheet.