This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Elementary Art Principles. Before entering into the actual work of taking pictures, it is advisable to dwell for a short time upon some of the principles and elementary rules in art. Some photographers contend that there are no rules in art; yet there are certain conventions, at least, into which pictures fall.
Limitations. The photographer is denied the use of color, and is also bound, to a certain extent, by the limitations of his instrument, and must, therefore, rely upon line, form and the great range of gradations between white and black. The misleading effect of color can always be obviated by employing a piece of blue glass, and with this valuable adjunct you will be able to secure the true groupings of light and shade; for by looking through this blue glass you will realize the monochrome (one color) possibility of the view. The blue of the glass removes practically all strong and catchy colors, and gives you simply the black and white rendering of the scene. Its intelligent use shows that a scene which is otherwise satisfactory will be often disappointing when reproduced into black and white.
Composition. In judging the merits of a picture there are a great many points to be taken into consideration, but of all these various points the composition of the view (i. e., the arrangement of mass and detail and shade, and the important and unimportant) is the all-important one. A scene may present excellent composition, yet make a poor picture. If you learn the elementary principles of composition you will, to a certain extent at least, have taken a decided step on the road to successful picture making. Bear in mind, however, that the art of composition is, to a very marked degree, a sense, and it is necessary to appreciate and to be able to see with an artistic eye the predominating objects and the general view upon the ground-glass at a glance.
211. There is a similarity between the feeling of a person who appreciates music and the one who can understand correct arrangement in composition. Often a non-educated ear will prefer poor music to good music. The same principle holds good with the eye untrained in pictorial composition, as it may even prefer the bad to the good. It is possible to develop the pictorial sense, however, in a manner similar to the education of the musical taste, providing you are willing to learn and will not insist upon certain preferences which you have no good grounds to hold.
The Best Way To Compose A Picture. After having a reason for photographing a subject, you must recognize that there is a best way to make the record. You must find that way by selecting the most appropriate point of view from which to make the exposure, as well as to arrange the various items and masses upon the ground-glass, so they will be well balanced and properly composed.