Retouchers can learn a lot from traditional art forms like painting, as many of the fundamental concepts are quite similar. While retouchers tend to lend their focus in the areas of skin retouching and color grading techniques, composition is often overlooked. Perhaps this is due to the photographer retaining control over composition by cropping or composing an image in advance, or there is simply a lack of knowledge on the subject altogether.
When asked, most photographers and retouchers that I know can usually only name a couple of compositional rules (i.e., Rule of Thirds, Lines, etc). When in fact, there are many more compositional concepts available to us. Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography created a simple website with a companion video series which focuses on the study of composition.
Composition is an important aspect of photography, as visual composition can alter an image’s meaning and narrative entirely. This is rather important if you want your work to stand out from your contemporaries. Whether it’s the use of negative space, lines, or the rule odds. Good – or even better yet – well thought out composition can take an image from being ordinary to extraordinary, sometimes with a mere crop. In photography (or any visual art for that matter), I’d argue that composition is one of the most powerful concepts that will bolster anyone’s body of work.
The site goes through 9 different concepts with examples from famous historical images, while the companion videos take it a step further and provide additional explanations. While some retouchers may say their photographers retain control over composition, I know that many would value a retoucher with a strong knowledge of visual composition. Retouchers are often looked to for a second opinion. The more you know, the better your retouching, and the more indispensable you become to the creative team.