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Composition Digital Field Guide by Alan Hess

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Chapter 1. Composition Basics

All photographs are made up of two parts: the exposure and the composition. The exposure deals with the amount of light that reaches the camera's digital sensor.

The composition deals with what is and what isn't in the photograph and that is what this book is about. But before you learn how to compose an image, you need to look at the differences in lenses, focal lengths, focus points, and even sensor sizes.

Composition Basics

Before I raised the camera to my eye, I had to make a series of decisions when it came to photographing this lion. What lens would I use? Would the shot be a close-up or would it be a wide-angle? How would the background look? Which focus point would I use? Would I need to recompose? Taken at ISO 400, f/2.8, and 1/800 second.

Focal Lengths and Lenses

One of the first choices any photographer makes when it comes to composition is what lens and focal length to use. The focal length is defined as the distance from the optical center of the lens when it is focused at infinity to the camera's focal plane (sensor); it is described in millimeters (mm). But what exactly does this mean in plain English?

The same scene can look vastly different, depending on what focal length you use. For example, Figures 1.1 and 1.2 both show the same scene. The camera didn't move at all, but by deciding what is and isn't part of the scene, the images are completely different. ...

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