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Michael Freeman

Book Review: The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman

The Photographer's Eye by Michael FreemanMichael Freeman has created a gorgeous, well-illustrated book that takes one of the most subtle and abstract elements of photography—composition—and makes it concrete and understandable.

This may be the most concisely written photography book I’ve ever seen.  Freeman is the anti-Kelby.  Every word is carefully chosen, every sentence terse and tight.   Freeman writes with the precision of a philosopher or a surgeon, as if lives depended on accurate understanding.

That doesn’t mean Freeman’s analysis is always simple.  Composition is a complex topic, and Freeman doesn’t hesitate to delve into formal theories of perception, such as “The Gestalt Law of Perceptual Organization” — topics that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would fill mind-numbing chapters with bloated verbiage. Freeman covers it succinctly in one bullet-point sidebar. Done. Next.

The illustrative photos are mostly drawn from Freeman’s Asian travels, and the subject matter can sometimes become a bit monotonous if you’re not a big fan of travel photography.  I would have liked to see him mix it up a bit more and include some other styles, but you can hardly fault a photographer for sticking to his own area of interest.

Accompanying many of the photos are sketches illustrating the vectors of movement, or the balance of forces, within an image.  I found these diagrams immensely useful, and after looking at a book’s worth of them, I find my eye now spontaneously recognizing these vectors in other photos, and even in my own viewfinder.  This is what education is all about—Freeman has imparted his wisdom at a visceral level that is apparently now ingrained in my view of the world. What more could one ask from a book?

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