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Elements of Design

Lesson 110 from: Fundamentals of Photography 2016

John Greengo

Elements of Design

Lesson 110 from: Fundamentals of Photography 2016

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

110. Elements of Design


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Welcome to Photography


Camera Types Overview


Viewing Systems


Viewing Systems Q&A


Lens Systems


Shutter Systems


Shutter Speeds


Choosing a Shutter Speed


Shutter Speeds for Handholding


Shutter Speed Pop Quiz


Camera Settings


General Camera Q&A


Sensor Sizes: The Basics


Sensor Sizes: Compared






Sensor Q&A


Focal Length: Overview


Focal Length: Angle of View


Wide Angle Lenses


Telephoto Lenses


Angle of View Q&A


Fish Eye Lenses


Tilt & Shift Lenses


Subject Zone


Lens Speed


Aperture Basics


Depth of Field


Aperture Pop Quiz


Lens Quality


Photo Equipment Life Cycle


Light Meter Basics




Histogram Pop Quiz and Q&A


Dynamic Range


Exposure Modes


Manual Exposure


Sunny 16 Rule


Exposure Bracketing


Exposure Values


Exposure Pop Quiz


Focus Overview


Focusing Systems


Autofocus Controls


Focus Points


Autofocusing on Subjects


Manual Focus


Digital Focusing Assistance


Focus Options: DSLR and Mirrorless


Shutter Speeds for Sharpness and DoF


Depth of Field Pop Quiz


Depth of Field Camera Features


Lens Sharpness


Camera Movement


Handheld and Tripod Focusing


Advanced Techniques


Hyperfocal Distance


Hyperfocal Quiz and Focusing Formula


Micro adjust and AF Fine Tune


Focus Stacking and Post Sharpening


Focus Problem Pop Quiz


The Gadget Bag: Camera Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Lens Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Neutral Density Filter


The Gadget Bag: Lens Hood and Teleconverters


The Gadget Bag: Lens Adapters


The Gadget Bag: Lens Cleaning Supplies


The Gadget Bag: Macro Lenses and Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Flash and Lighting


The Gadget Bag: Tripods and Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Custom Cases


10 Thoughts on Being a Photographer


Direct Sunlight


Indirect Sunlight


Sunrise and Sunset


Cloud Light


Golden Hour


Light Pop Quiz


Light Management


Artificial Light




Off-Camera Flash


Advanced Flash Techniques


Editing Overview


Editing Set-up


Importing Images


Best Use of Files and Folders




Develop: Fixing in Lightroom


Develop: Treating Your Images


Develop: Optimizing in Lightroom


Art of Editing Q&A


Composition Overview


Photographic Intrusions


Mystery and Working the Scene


Point of View


Better Backgrounds


Unique Perspective


Angle of View


Subject Placement


Subject Placement Q&A




Multishot Techniques




Human Vision vs The Camera


Visual Perception


Visual Balance Test


Visual Drama


Elements of Design


The Photographic Process


Working the Shot


The Moment


One Hour Photo - Colby Brown


One Hour Photo - John Keatley


One Hour Photo - Art Wolfe


One Hour Photo - Rocco Ancora


One Hour Photo - Mike Hagen


One Hour Photo - Lisa Carney


One Hour Photo - Ian Shive


One Hour Photo - Sandra Coan


One Hour Photo - Daniel Gregory


One Hour Photo - Scott Robert Lim


Lesson Info

Elements of Design

Final little big section here is on the Elements of Design. As photographers, we can draw from other art forms, and look at what works for them, and see what can apply to us as well. There are elements of design that work in painting, in sculpture, and other types of art, that we should look at and go, "Oh, okay "how can we use that?" The first and most basic element is the line. In my mind, it's a handrail for the eyes. It gives you a place to look, and your eyes will follow that line back and forth. I talked earlier about the eye tracking system that they have out, that will follow your eyes. It would follow the actual line, and so we are intrinsically drawn to following that line. Look for images that have really strong lines in them, and you know that people's eyes are gonna go up and down that particular scene. Any places there's really strong graphic lines. This is The Wave in Arizona, a very popular hiking destination, a very popular photographic destinations. The sandstone has ...

this unbelievable lines in there. It's guaranteed a good shot almost in any direction that you point the camera, 'cause there's these patterns of lines, which are very intrinsically interesting. I've done a lot of cycling tours in my past, and always looking for neat looking roads. In Bhutan. Actually, just a couple hundred yards from where we are over at the Space Needle area. Trees have great lines. I was boarding a boat, and this was my favorite shot in Alaska on that trip up there. It was just really interesting. I don't know how many other people shot photos, but it just seemed a very interesting place to be. Those trees have really nice lines. Going back to the lighting section, what time was this taken? Why was I sticking around? Because that twilight was a really good time to be out there. We'll be talking at that color here in a moment. That LED hula hoop what we saw back in Section One, we can do a lot of fun things with LED hula hoops. There's a lot of different types of lines that have kind of a slightly different emotional feeling when we see them. The horizontal line is a very stationary, strong line. We're kind of used to those horizons. The roofs of the building, the horizontal line across. Typically, the diagonal line is a little bit more dynamic, a little bit more interesting. Having diagonal lines adds a little bit more energy into the photograph in many cases, a little bit more excitement, visual interest. If I had to say why, it's because well we're used to things standing straight up and dow in some cases, and when they're tilted over, it often means they're gonna fall over, or something's different about it. It's one of those things, that element again, we talked about what's unusual, and what's different. This one angled line in the Colosseum really draws a person's attention. The feet of a Great Blue Herring, all those angled lines are just kind of neat to look at. I'm positioning this, so that the corners of these railings come right up to the edges of the corners, going from one corner to the next. Another type of line, and this very soothing line is a curved line. Once again, your eye uses these lines as handrails, and it follows them around. It's kind of this nice smooth motion that we enjoy. Anytime you have this nice S curve. A lot of photographers love that S curve, so we're gonna see these line all around us. Just be more aware of your environment, and what's there. You know, this has a very smooth feel, compared to if it was just a straight line. It could make a very nice, very symmetrical image, but having that little S curve, not being able to see into the distance too far, gives it a slightly different feeling. The spiral. One other kind of age old concept of photography is the line leading you to a destination. Your eye likes to follow the line, so it's probably a good idea if there's something at the end of that line for your eye to go to. These boardwalks. I mean, these folks thought I was nuts taking photos from behind them. Who wants to go behind everyone else and takes the photos, but I was looking at this foreground, thinking that it kind of added an interesting element to the photograph. Lines leading you to your subject, and you'll find these lines all over once you start developing an eye and looking for them. Babies love shapes, but you know what? Grownups like shapes too. Shapes are something that we can identify very easily, no matter what their size is. If they're very small, we're interested in them. If we know what they look like, or what they're supposed to be, what they're not supposed to be. Anytime you have a very clear shape, it's kind of hitting us on a different level. It hits us very, very quickly, but sometimes we don't even think about it, but it's a part of the photograph. All these different shapes. River in Yellowstone in the middle of winter. These great blocks had just fallen off the edge of a glacier. Some great shapes in clouds. Using shapes and shadows help you see the texture a little bit more clearly. Okay, almost a selfie, not quite (chuckles), but the shadows in the sand dune will help show us the shape of the sand. We talked about this in side lighting, if you remember back in the lighting section, getting that side lighting in there. Without this side lighting here, White Sands National Monument, you can't see the sand dunes, but here, at this time of day, you can see it very easily. You're not supposed to be out photographing in the middle of a bright sunny day, right? Remember that rule. Avoid it, well this is when you've the deepest, longest shadows with these wood supports for the roof. You get these right around noon time for about 45 minutes, and then they're not anywhere significant. That's where they're really reaching their length to get this little extra pattern in there. Looking for shadows, creating some depth, out in the bright open, you're gonna get that very early or very late in the day, 'cause you gotta get that sun down very low to the ground. I don't know. Do you guys see a hip? I see a hip, right here. Just the sand dune. A little bit of light, a little bit of dark, you can really tell the texture and the shape of these areas, so be very careful about the lighting situation. One of the shapes that we just are drawn to, if you have a human shape in a photograph, that is gonna be hard to avoid looking at. It's gonna really draw your viewer's attention, for good or for bad, so realize that. It doesn't have to be very large in the frame, but we are drawn to understanding what that person is doing. What's it like to be there? We can put ourselves in their footsteps quite easily, in this photograph. If we take them out of it, it has a very different context to the photograph. I remember before my first big international trip I was going to Iceland, and I had a friend who was not an expert photographer, but he knew, he knew. He was smart. He goes, "John, make sure you take photos "with people in 'em," 'cause we want to see photos. We want to see a size relationship, and we want to see how big an area is. When we have a person in it, we can really kind of put ourselves in their footsteps to understand more about that location. The gesture. Any sort of human action or movement really lets us know about what they're doing, what they're thinking, what they're feeling, what they're going through. It relates us, the viewer, more to that subject. If you can capture gestures that people understand. I was actually trying to get a photograph in this walkway without this couple, and they were just consumed taking photos of each other. There is this very nice little moment, where they were sharing the photo that they had actually got, and you can tell they're having a good little moment there. In Cuba, the taxi cab drivers. They're waiting to pick up some of their morning rides. For me, this photo just totally hinges on the guy working on his car. That one hand on that car is something that we can all relate to. Those looks and those smiles. (audience laughs) Madagascar, a lemur. That moment between the mother and its pup, you know, waiting for that critical moment right there. That glance of that eyes. Remember how I talked about the eye contract earlier. There's just that downward facing snout. He's almost kind of looking out of the top of his eyes, it feels like. Don't come near me. I don't know what I will do. Just a little bit scared. Curiosity here. What do you think? Ken and I were leading a tour in Cuba, and as we were driving back from this one location, there was thousands of crabs crossing the road. There were so many the bus could not avoid 'em all, but we stopped, and we got out, and we were photographing little crabs. You saw a picture earlier, but I got a picture of a crab hailing a cab. Look at this. (audience laughs) It's like, "I want to get out of here. "Can you take me out of here?" When I was down in Florida, I got flashed by a bird. (audience laughs) The gestures of the animals. When we take a shape, and repeat it over and over again, we of course get a pattern. If I had to choose one thing that would guarantee an interesting photograph, it would probably be the pattern. If there was a pattern, I don't care what it is. It could be a garbage, but if it's a nice looking pattern, it's probably gonna make a nice looking photograph. Any time you see a pattern that repeats itself over and over again, get in relatively close, and there's probably gonna be an interesting point of view. In this case it's just two subjects, but it's that pattern back an forth. The painting in the background, and the actual bird in the foreground. The repeating form of that balloon across the sky, and just in case you're wondering, no there was not one balloon that I photoshopped a hundred times over, this is really the way it was. Those repeating patterns works really well in wildlife photography when you have lots and lots of animals, but there's patterns just all over the place. Just be aware of 'em, and looking for 'em. Once again, I'm not trying to tell the entire story. This is where you can just tell a little bit of that story, but it's a really clean, and just kind of mesmerizing story, because what happens is you look at one subject, and you look at another, and another, and your brain is just kind of like, wow this is interesting, 'cause it's one the same, the other, it's over, and over, and over again. In this case, I'm using a telephoto lens to kind of heighten the compression effects, that it makes these trees look as close together as possible. This is a place called Zebra Canyon. Once we have a pattern, then it's kind of nice to take a money wrench, and just kind of toss it right into that pattern there, and break that pattern up. There's a lot of different ways that we can do this. If you've noticed a trend in any of my photographs, yes I do like penguins a lot. They're just really photogenic creatures. I like 'em a lot, so having a pattern, and what's that one element that breaks that pattern up? Because remember what our eyes go to, it's really the Sesame Street game. You guys remember, which item is different? We've got four items here. One of em's different, and you pull it out. I don't know if it was Sesame Street did this, but I think it's very natural that we just were always looking for that one element. Ah, that guy's not time with the rest of 'em there. All the lines going one direction, the main subject going the other direction. I'm not sure why friends don't let friends surf, but that's the one you're gonna look at, that one bright element. Your eyes go to color. It goes to what's brighter. It goes to what's different. It's hard not to look at that yellow in this photograph. Of course, the classic one tulip of the different color. I didn't need to Photoshop that either. That was actually there. Related to the pattern is the texture. In my mind, texture is different oftentimes because it involves another sense of either maybe touch. What does it feel like in the hand? What does is taste like? Is it hot? Is it cold? This is where you look at this, and you start to get a feeling for what it would be like there, to be with that subject. There is a town. This is Rovin, Croatia, and they've had these stone walkways in town for I'm not sure how long, but clearly, hundreds and hundreds of years, and they've been worn down. They have this smooth texture, and a really nice color to them as well. It is just beautiful in their own right. Just all around town, they have these beautiful walkways, really, really, I don't know what it would feel like to walk there on a rainy day, 'cause it's just looks very, very slick. The texture, you can just see it so easily in the photographs. It translates very well. The painted hills in Oregon. That's slick. You can just imagine it, how slippery it must be to wrestle with a baby elephant seal. You can see how good a job they did at polishing that fender for that auto shop, showing that texture in that wall in Cuba. In Cuba, I have to retire the word texture for several weeks after I go there, because I say that word so much. As you're walking up and down the streets, they need a lot of paint there, but to be honest with you, photographically it does look really nice right now. It makes for a lot of great photos. This is the subway in Zion National Park. You can just tell, looking at this rock surface at how slippery it must be walking around with a SLR camera, and a big old wide angle lens, and knowing that you do not want to slip around. It's like being on an ice skating rink. Back to the penguins. The kids have these brown coats of fur. They call them bears with beaks and flippers, and then when it rains, the texture really changes the look. It's like a wet fur coat in my mind. Now we did mention earlier in the section about getting in tight with your photographs and really filling up the entire frame with what's important. That's often necessary, because everything else around it is not part of the scene that you're trying to shoot. There's a lot of clutter, and this makes sense. I believe we do live in a very cluttered world, and you gotta get in and really tell your tight story. Every once in a while you are in an environment that you can kind of back up. You can zoom back, and you can show more of the environment around it. When it's clean, and it's nice, and it fits well with your subject. I was up in Alaska, and it seemed like everything was far away, and there just wasn't much to shoot. Okay, I think I like this, just the openness of the space. It really shows you how much space there is. It gives you a feeling of that openness of being out far away from everything. Yeah, you can get in tighter, but showing it from the Penguin's point of view from just behind it, the big open sky. Details on a car, and you can just tell that, that hood of that car is super clean. No scratches in that, as smooth as can be. In this case, having a lot of space above the iceberg just to the point where you can start to see there's some darker clouds up at the very, very top. Having this open space, we talked about direction, and the rule of thirds, facing inwards, and having this curve a little bit leaning more to the other side of the frame. I had a panoramic version of this before, but I also like this just big, empty version. Because when you go out to the Sahara Desert, that sky is just a really big environment. It does tell that story a little bit. This is one of my favorite photos from Greece. It's hardly got anything in it, hardy any content, but let me tell you, that was a great place to go sit down, just sit down on a bench, that was a nice place to be. Black and white. I was just thinking, what can I do to switch this class off, and I'm thinking maybe the next time I do it, the whole class will be in black and white. I don't know, has CreativeLive had an entire black and white class? Have they? You think they have. Darn I won't be the first, then. Black and white, it obviously has a great tradition in photography, and it is a great way of looking at photographs, because when you take the color out of the photographs, your eye really goes to the content. If you have good content, that has nice contrast to it, it can make a really beautiful black and white image. Sometimes I'm taking an image, and this was in Cuba. There was a Easter processional that was going around the streets, and I noticed that there was this mural in the back, and I thought if I got over to that side, let people walk past, and then I turn it into a black and white, it's almost this perfect backdrop, where you can't even tell where it ends. Some more of the architecture in Cuba, that stark contrast with the white and the blacks. This typically works well with subjects that don't have a lot of color, but have a lot of range of brightness from light to dark. With the digital cameras, it's so easy to be able to shoot in raw, and just turn a version of that image into black and white, if you want to give that a try. You'll need to work with it in the developing section to get the contrast and the levels brought right, to really get it to pop the way you would like it to. It's very easy do. One of the tips is that on a lot of cameras there is a picture mode. It goes by different names, but picture mode is one of the names that's used, that you can put your camera into back and white mode. If you are shooting raw images, what's going to happen is that on the back of your camera, if you're using an SLR, you will get a black and white image that the camera shows you after you've taken that picture if you have your camera set into the back and white mode, but when you download it to your computer, you'll get the color version of this, and then you can have the color or the black and white version, so the advantage for the mirrorless user, the person who has the electronic viewfinder, is that you can put your camera into to the black and white mode, hold the viewfinder up to your eye, and you get the see the world in black and white. This is steps better than photographers had years ago with film, where they were trying to imagine what the world looked like in black and white. They would go out, shoot a roll of film, and then they would see how it looks. Now you can actually see it in the world or with an electronic viewfinder, you can actually preview how it's gonna look in a black and white image, and the might change your composition, and so forth. There in fact is at least one, I'm trying to think if there's more than one, but there's one camera Leica makes that is a black and white only camera. That's the only way it works, which I think is quite interesting. You'd have to be a very dedicated black and white photographer to want to bring that one out, because there's not too much of a technical advantage that, that camera has over other cameras. It does have a little bit, we're not going to get into it now, but it's something that most of us can shoot in color, but put your camera in black and white just to experience that out in the field. The way we look at this image in black and white, versus the way we look at it in color is very different because we are drawn to color. We had mentioned this before. This is one of those visual perceptions that it is something in your automatically drawn to, something that is colorful, is intrinsically interesting to us. Whether that comes from looking for fruits and vegetables that are nice and colorful, or more modern day with all our paints and colors. There is some colors that work really well together. For instance yellow and blue opposite on the spectrum, they're often the same density, and tonality, and there'll be a vibrance when you have these colors next to each other. That happens with some of the different colors on the color spectrum. Buildings in bold colors, just looking for any sorts of colors, knowing that color just in and of itself, not quite totally enough for content, but it certainly helps out. Sometimes having a little bit of color, the beak, the legs, and the flowers over on the left-hand side, all about that same color. That pattern of color. One of the reasons I love traveling, is it seems like other places than the United States, and especially Seattle, we see colored walls, walls that are painted. Great places for backdrops for a lot subjects, the blue the green. We can break color up in many ways as well. Spot color. Once again, it's the eye goes to what is colorful in the photograph, and so this photograph for the most part is black and white with the exception of one thing, so that's exactly where your eyes gonna go to. Add it to the fact that it's also a human being, which is something else that draws our attention. In India the bright colors. Your eyes drawn to the end of that, it's not quite an alleyway. I'm not sure what the correct term is in Venice for a waterway, but a narrow waterway. Potentially getting a little controversial here folks, slightly desaturated color, or selective color. That'll get you a really decisive talk between photographers. Is it okay to desaturate and add a little bit of color in? I just desaturated some of the color that I didn't want in here, or just finding that one element that is really vibrant among something else that is just very, very plain. The eye goes to what is brightest. The eye goes to what is most colorful in the photograph. Now this is a personal favorite of mine. I love graduated color. We're gonna get this a lot of times at sunrises and sunsets. I know that there's pretty much nothing in this photograph but it love visually looking at this color gradation, especially out with my own eyes. I think it's just fascinating, looking as that color just slowly changes color from red, to blues, and purples in some cases. This is something that we obviously get at those sunrises and sunsets, which we talked back in the lighting section. This is why I don't go home right when the sun crosses the horizon on sunset. I wanna stick around and see what else is gonna happen in the sky, 'cause that's when you often get these fantastic colors. As the sun sets, you get this beautiful red, and then it goes up to this blue, and I saw this in an artificial location. I was at a friend's house. I looked up at his lamp. I'm like, wow that looks just like a sunset in some ways, that gradation of color. I was down in Miami, and I was coming back from the Everglades, and I could see the sky turning colors, but I wasn't in a good location. I was just like, ah, I just don't have the right point of view. I need to get the camera in the right place. Suddenly I drove by an open field, and I parked the car immediately, and got out. I was just going nuts on the side of the road, and there was all these cars driving past. I'm looking at the cars and all that. Don't you see this? This is incredible, this is awesome! You got these beautiful silhouettes here, you got the crescent moon, and nice gradation in colors. Another type of color to think about is just one color, kind of a theme throughout the entire image. The end of a glacier. Those tobacco leaves, repetition of the same color. Talk about getting up at that high vantage points. You're able to see things. This is going to be next to impossible to shoot on that street, getting all that color in there. Pattern and color, so you can almost go back to any section of this class and start pulling out what are all the other elements involved on any one of these photographs. We could be talking about depth of the field, or getting the focus on this. I thought this was great, green car, green building, green shirt, green headband, shot by Mr. Greengo. (instructor and audience laugh) Chefchaouen in Morocco, Blue City. They paint the walls blue. We saw a photograph from there earlier in the exposure session I believe, but it was fun walking around here, because it felt like the bottom of the swimming pool. Have you ever been in the bottom of a swimming pool that doesn't have any water in it. It's all painted blue, or something. It's a little bit harder to see the texture. It's a little bit more subtle. A little bit of a surreal environment.

Class Materials

Free Download

Fundamentals of Photography Outline

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Learning Project Videos
Learning Projects PDF
Slides for The Camera Lessons 1-13
Slides for The Sensor Lessons 14-18
Slides for The Lens Lessons 19-31
Slides for The Exposure Lessons 32-42
Slides for Focus Lessons 43-62
Slides for The Gadget Bag Lessons 63-72
Slides for Light Lesson 73-84
Slides for the Art of Edit Lessons 85-93
Slides for Composition Lesson 94-105
Slides for Photographic Vision Lessons 106-113

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!

Vlad Chiriacescu

Wow! John is THE best teacher I have ever had the pleasure of learning from, and this is the most comprehensive, eloquent and fun course I have ever taken (online or off). If you're even / / interested in photography, take this course as soon as possible! You might find out that taking great photos requires much more work than you're willing to invest, or you might get so excited learning from John that you'll start taking your camera with you EVERYWHERE. At the very least, you'll learn the fundamental inner workings and techniques that WILL help you get a better photo. Worried about the cost? Well, I've taken courses that are twice as expensive that offer less than maybe a tenth of the value. You'll be much better off investing in this course than a new camera or a new lens. I cannot reccomend John and this course enough!

Student Work