Photograph above taken in Frederick, MD with a Leica MP240
7 Products for Photographers That Aren't Worth the Time or Money (Click here for the podcast)
1. Elaborate Dynamic Symmetry Grid Packs
Yeah, yeah, we've all seen them. Advertisements on YouTube and other Dynamic Symmetry websites for elaborate camera Dynamic Symmetry grid packs. Grid designs based on famous artists, grids broken down into multiple themes, grids for iPhones, iPads, this camera and that camera and on and on it goes. But the reality is, most photographers and artists will never use them. Artists that actually use Dynamic Symmetry draw out the grids on their canvas and photographers can't be bothered with all that nonsense - they're far too complicated. If you're a photographer interested in learning Dynamic Symmetry and applying it to your photographs, a basic Dynamic Symmetry grid pack is more than enough.
You can download a free Dynamic Symmetry grid pack here.
2. Dynamic Symmetry Camera Grids
If you're new to Dynamic Symmetry and want to experiment with camera grids, I say, go for it! However, once you're familiar with the armature of the rectangle, ditch these plastic grids because they're counterproductive for improving your visual literacy skills, and nobody in the photography industry will take you seriously. And no, despite the ad campaigns found on other photography websites, professional photographers don't use them, and they're entirely unnecessary for creating masterful images. To download a free camera grid pack, click here. Also see the article, Camera Grids for the Beginner.
3. Overpriced Workshops
Over the past 5-10 years, I've seen a trend in astronomically priced workshops by photography bloggers that teach classical art and street photography techniques. These photography workshops start at $1500.00 and go up from there. However, here's the problem. These photography workshop instructors don't have a substantial body of work nor do they have the years of experience that justify these elaborate prices.
For example, when a street photography blogger is charging more for a workshop than a Magnum photographer, clearly something is out of whack. Additionally, all of the techniques these instructors are teaching can easily be learned by reading a few art books on classical art and design and loads of practice. So do yourself a favor, buy a few art books written on classical style atelier training and save your cash. I'm sure you can find a better way to spend a few grand.
4. Self-Published Books on Composition
Self-published books on composition suck. They are poorly written, poorly edited, and often inaccurate in their analytical findings. Need proof? Just go on Amazon.com and look at the reviews underneath some of these cheaply priced kindle books. You would be lucky to find more than 20, and half of those reviews are done by friends and family members. If you're an artist or photographer that wants to learn Dynamic Symmetry and composition in art, I suggest reading the book The Art of Composition: A Simple Application of Dynamic Symmetry by Michel Jacobs. There is no competing with it. End of story.
5. YouTube Videos
All the videos I've seen on YouTube about Dynamic Symmetry are poorly produced, contradicting spinoffs of Myron Barnstone's teachings on classical skill-based art. For example, I recently caught a YouTube video where the photographer was actually cropping one of Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs stating that it fit the Rule of Thirds grid. Seriously? Ironically, this was the same photograph that Myron Barnstone claimed was a "masterpiece" in lesson 10 of his drawing DVD series on design. No offense, but I'll take Myron's word over a YouTube blogger any day of the week.
If you're looking for great videos on learning more about art and design, check out the Barnstone Studios DVDs and Instant Downloads. These videos are inexpensive and loaded with tons of information on classical art and design. And no, I don't get any kickbacks by recommending these products - I recommend them because they are fantastic. So do yourself a favor, skip the free junk on YouTube and spend a few bucks on the real deal. You won't be disappointed.
6. Gestalt Psychology (or anything to do with it)
If you're a photographer that wants to make learning composition more difficult, Gestalt Psychology is right up your alley.
So what exactly is Gestalt Psychology? According to the website verywellmind.com, Gestalt Psychology originated in the work of Max Wertheimer, Gestalt psychology formed partially as a response to the structuralism of Wilhelm Wundt.
While Wundt was interested in breaking down psychological matters into their smallest possible part, the Gestalt psychologists were instead interested in looking at the totality of the mind and behavior. The guiding principle behind the Gestalt movement was that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
The development of this area of psychology was influenced by a number of thinkers, including Immanuel Kant, Ernst Mach, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The development of Gestalt psychology was influenced in part by Wertheimer's observations one day at a train station. He purchased a toy stroboscope which displayed pictures in a rapid sequence to mimic the appearing movement. He later proposed the concept of the Phi phenomenon in which flashing lights in sequence can lead to what is known as apparent motion.
In other words, we perceive movement where there is none. Movies are one example of apparent motion. Through a sequence of still frames, the illusion of movement is created.
"The fundamental 'formula' of Gestalt theory might be expressed in this way,” Max Wertheimer wrote. "There are wholes, the behavior of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes."
Confusing much? Yeah, I thought so. Furthermore, all of the design techniques that fall under the complex label of "Gestalt Psychology" can easily be found in other books on classical art training - however, they are presented in a way that makes sense to most artists.
To learn more about these design techniques, click here.
7. Membership Websites
Whenever I come across a website that charges a membership fee for sharing articles, I immediately close out of the window and never go back. I hate them. In fact, I'm surprised that membership websites can make a go of it at all because most of the information they're selling can easily be found on other sites for free. Additionally, the biggest downfall of a membership website is that they have to continuously generate more and more articles to justify charging their customers recurring monthly fees. In turn, what you end up with is a bunch of repetitive articles that you more than likely never would have paid for or wanted to read in the first place.
The Benefits of Learning Dynamic Symmetry and Real Design
-Create Masterful Art and Photography That's Easy to Sell! -Build a Portfolio That Far Exceeds Your Competitors! -Watch Your Self Confidence Grow as Your Skills Improve! =Gain Respect From Your Peers and Become a Highly Trained Artist! -Learn the Design Techniques that Make Your Art Come to Life! -Learn How to Stop Relying on "Intuition" and Start Using Real Skills! -Discover the Secrets of Composition That Master Artists Don't Want You to Know!
What Others Are Saying About Dynamic Symmetry Art "James Cowman's user's guide on composition and Dynamic Symmetry, in particular, was one of the greatest milestones on my journey of becoming a better artist. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is undoubtedly the best resource on the subject out there, which I keep recommending to anyone interested in taking their compositions to a new level. It shocks me that even otherwise excellent artists today often know nothing about these old systems and rely mostly on their intuition to create their compositions. It's time that artists rediscover and revive the lost knowledge of the old masters and bring art back to its former glory. Jame's user's guide is a unique and invaluable resource in this effort." - Storm Engineer
"Jim offers something that is almost impossible to find online: a truly one-of-a-kind resource. His information about Dynamic Symmetry is meticulously researched and comes from a place of knowledge and genuine interest, not sales, as so many educational sites do. Reading his surprisingly accessible work has helped me to grow artistically in a deliberate and satisfying way. I return to Dynamic Symmetry Art regularly and always learn something new." - Rebecca Isenhart
"The information provided in The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist has been a tremendous resource for me as an artist and photographer. My photography work has improved tremendously, and all of my clients agree! I'll continue to share this user's guide with all of my peers and other creative artists." - Zine Massey
"I just graduated from the BFA in Graphic Design at the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil, and one of the chapters of my monograph was about composition. As a motion designer, the proper layout of elements is a very important phase in my creative process, so any tool that helps with making decisions on that is very valuable. What I love about your studies is that it's full of images and resources, it's a gold mine in my opinion. Thanks for providing so much information at an affordable price." - Eveline Falcão
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist deserves to be a physical book in Barnes & Noble & on my coffee table!" - Elliot McGucken
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive e-books ever written on the topic of design in art. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced art/photography student, this user's guide is indispensable. I recommend it to all of my artists and photographers and have it linked to my website The Artist Angle." - Jennifer Finley
"Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters, including da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people.
My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into compositional elements. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grid overlays in Lightroom to analyze and crop my photos.
I have found dynamicsymmetryart.com extremely beneficial, and it has contributed immensely with my efforts to improve as a photographer. Thank you for your commitment to art and art education." - Warren Wish
"There’s been something missing in my photography for some time now. It felt like I’d hit a brick wall. I was finding great locations and taking beautiful photos, but again, something was missing. I had no idea what it was; I just knew it was there.
I found myself repeatedly falling back on the Rule of Thirds, but this was becoming more of a hindrance rather than a help. Then one day I had the good fortune to stumble across the website Dynamicsymmetryart.com. There is no better teacher or resource on the internet regarding Dynamic Symmetry and best of all everything is free! I can assure you, once you begin to delve into the rich offerings on this site you won’t have any need to look elsewhere.
I, for one, can’t thank Jim enough for all the time and effort he has put into this and for taking my photography to the next level. His website and Youtube channel are both superb, and I'd like to thank him for sharing the knowledge on what is a very fascinating subject." - Tim B
"With the passing of Myron Barnstone, we lost a great resource on the application of the Rectangles of the Masters and the Golden Section in creating art. But the website dynamicsymmetryart.com is carrying on that work Myron so thoroughly believed in and taught. Dynamic Symmetry can be used in the simplest of ways as well as being infinitely complex if one desires. Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci recognized the power that this compositional tool offers.
Dynamicsymmetryart.com is an amazing reference for artists who are open to exploring the benefits of using Dynamic Symmetry in their work. It applies to all the arts and resonates at a primal level of understanding harmony and beauty. Much thanks to James Cowman for his dedication to furthering this information to the public." - Master Artist and Teacher,Dot Bunn, Red Stone Farm Studio
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