I got some Amazon vouchers from my mother in law for my birthday, so I decided to give "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman a go. Michael Freeman is a travel and reportage photographer who has worked a great deal in Asia and is also a prolific publisher of photography books, with over a hundred titles to his name. The subtitle of this book is "Composition and Design for better digital photos" and I will admit that the inclusion of "digital photos" in that subtitle put me off a little, as it sounded like the book was jumping on the bandwagon, but in fact there wasn't much in the book that wasn't applicable to film photography as well as digital.
The book is very comprehensive covering just about everything that I have heard of and then some. This is an order of magnitude more than the usual advice you'll get on the web. Each section was well balanced with very useful illustrations. Some of the best sections showed alternate examples of the same scene to show not only how different design decisions affect the final composition, but also to give an insight into the photographer's decision making process.
There is a fair amount of emphasis given to the way the eye moves around the picture and what subjects and graphic elements transport or attract the eye. The aim being to first attract the eye to the image and then keep it moving around the image for longer. In some cases it is useful to create a strong attractor to stop the eye from being distracted by a cluttered scene. None of it is meant to be followed slavishly, its about having a repertoire of things that work, that you can draw upon or avoid.
Some might criticise that the photographic examples aren't outstanding, but the photos have been chosen to illustrate the ideas in the book and have been kept simple for that purpose.
All in all this is pretty good stuff, already its making a difference to how I think about images that I take and see. Its easy reading style is a lot more accessible than some more dry academic books, which means I'll read it more than once when I feel the need to refresh. Highly recommended.