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Subject Placement

Lesson 101 from: Fundamentals of Photography 2016

John Greengo

Subject Placement

Lesson 101 from: Fundamentals of Photography 2016

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

101. Subject Placement


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

Subject Placement

Alright, so we're making our way through the world of composition. And at this point, we've kind of figured out where we need to be, or maybe we're stuck in one location and we can't do anything other than shoot from this one location. What can we do at this point to frame our subject up so that it looks as interesting and tells a compelling story? So let's think about the different framing options. Now the kind of standard, old time concept, rule of thirds. Everyone's probably heard about it, but you know, you kinda have to talk about it 'cause it makes a certain amount of logical sense as I will show you here in just a moment. So if you're not aware of this, the rule of thirds states that you take your frame and you break it into thirds, left, right, top, and bottom. And where those lines are and where they intersect are good places to put subjects, lines, horizon, for instance. So as we frame up our subject, the idea is that if your subject is dead center, it's kind of obvious and k...

ind of boring, just not that interesting. And so we can make it a little bit more interesting by doing something slightly unconventional with it, and that is moving it off from one side to the other. And it is, of course, your choice as to where you think it's going to look the best, which corner or which part of the frame. And so this is a technique that has been used for a long period of time and has been found to be very effective because not only does it show our subject, but it shows a little bit of the subject or the environment around that subject as well. So it is good for telling a little bit bigger of a story. Once again, just choosing wherever you think it looks best. And it does not have to be at exactly those intersections. I've heard of some horror stories of photo clubs where they grade photos, and they would take points away from you if you're not exactly in the intersection where the rule of thirds lies. And I think that's just taking the idea just a little bit too far. Now one of the things that kinda makes things real interesting with me is a lot of photographers like to argue, well maybe it's just people like to argue about things. And there are certain people that have a problem with the rule of thirds, and they think it's dumb and it's bad and that teachers should not teach it to students. It's a bad thing to learn. Well, the fact of the matter is is if you put your subject in the middle, it does seem very conventional and obvious and boring if you do that all the time on all your subjects. And so it's not that the middle is completely out, but let's just think about someplace else that we can put it, alright? And so if we're not gonna put it in the middle, do we wanna put it all the way over here? Well that, no, that doesn't look right. You can't crop a subject off like that. That just doesn't look comfortable. It's gonna make people feel uncomfortable. And any time you have it just really close to the edge, that's gonna make people feel uncomfortable because generally speaking, a subject needs a little bit of space, alright? We all like to have a little bit of space. We all have our own little personal bubble. Our tree needs its own little bit of space, which means we don't wanna put it right up against the edge. So there's kind of a border around the very, very edge you wanna be careful with. Now we're not gonna put it in the middle, we're not gonna put it on the very edge. What is left? Where are the four big areas that are left in this photograph? These big circles right here. And if we look where the rule of thirds are, they line up pretty similarly. And so if by logic, that rule of thirds works in my opinion. And so maybe we should change it to the suggestion of thirds and that would offend less people and more and more politically correct. So perhaps we need to make that change. And so just moving it outside of the middle of the frame. And so you can use whatever basis you want for moving it to one corner or the other. For me, the light coming in on the left, I want you to kind of imagine a beam of light coming in. And so I'm gonna move it over to the right-hand side. In this case, it appears to be on the left-hand side, kind of pointing more to the right-hand side. Even though it's an inanimate object and we're going with vertical here, I'm gonna put a little bit more over to the left-hand side. In this case, I have two subjects. I have the mural on the wall and I have the car. One's in the upper-right, one's in the lower left. Little bit of a balancing of the two subjects out. After my trip back from Cuba, I collected up a bunch of photos to put on my website. And when I went back to look at the images, and I kinda studied them from a compositional point of view, I realized that in none of the images did I have a single subject directly in the middle of the frame. In every case, I've kind of put something a little off to the side. So in many cases, if you think about going back to the focusing section, you remember how I focus, lock, and recompose or I use back button focusing? So I get the subject I want in focus and then I completely recompose the camera to what looks good. I think it's rather seldom that the exact perfect subject is going to be exactly in the middle of the frame according to what looks good compositionally. Now working hand in hand with the rule of thirds is direction. So let's take a little critter here, centered up very, very much in the middle of the frame. Let's move it off to the side. Does that feel more comfortable or less comfortable to you? Let's try the other side. Does this feel more comfortable or less comfortable than the previous ones? And so just that subtle adjustment of our camera, the slight changed point of view will have a very strong impact. For most people, the photo on the left is gonna feel very uncomfortable. Now, it could be potentially be the perfect photo if you wanted to have text on the right-hand side of the frame, and it'd work for that situation. But for most of us, we're probably gonna choose either the center one or the right-hand one. And the direction concept is that if there is a subject facing or going or looking in one particular direction, we wanna have space for that subject to see, move or look in that direction. And so this photograph and the next photograph, which is probably the most Photoshopped, manipulated photograph in the entire class, right here, has a very different emotional feel to them. Looking up that mountain is a more emotional, uplifting feel rather than looking out the frame and down, for instance. And so when I'm lining up a subject that's moving, I'm always trying to line it up with a little bit more space in front than behind. Feels very natural that this bear has room to walk across this river of water. These birds have room to continue their flight. This bird has room to look or move straight out in front. And so using that rule of thirds, giving the animals, the people direction to move throughout the frame. Now sometimes, I'll be honest with you, I didn't get it perfect in camera, but that's how I cropped it later. And so one of those reasons for maybe shooting a little bit wider, so that you have that room to crop. But if you can get it right in camera, you should get it right in camera. Now I explained this concept in South Georgia to this penguin. Tried to impress upon him how important it would be for him to turn about 45 degrees to the right, 'cause it would make a much more complete photograph. But you know, sometimes they just don't listen and yin and yang. Sometimes it looks good, sometimes you can completely go with the opposite. And so if you know the penguins, this tells a great story about the penguins. This is an adult penguin. Those are the kids. Mom took the kids, dad took the kids, put 'em in daycare, and now he's forgetting about 'em for most of the day, okay? (audience chuckling) End of the day, go get the kids and bring 'em back home. And so it just tells a different type of story and it's completely fine to do exactly the opposite of anything that I say. Running out of the frame, but still kinda looking back into the frame. Flying out of the frame, but we have jet trails, streams that are still coming back into the frame. I just couldn't get this lined up on the left side of the frame. It just didn't work out, but you know what? It's got kind of an unconventional feel to it. Makes you think a little bit more about that photo, and that's good. If you're thinking about things, that's good. I don't want you to completely get it and move onto the next photo. Now the rule of thirds is very similar to the golden ratio. And this, this gets a little interesting. This is kinda fun here. Now the golden ratio goes by a lot of different names out there, and so there's a number of different ways that it can be talked about. And it is a ratio or proportion defined by the number phi. Now phi is a number, and the number is 1.61 onward, okay? And it's close, but not quite exactly the same as another number that you're probably more familiar with, which is pi. So there's phi and pi. And I'm sorry, we're not having pie right now, okay? So that's completely different thing. So the phi number, and I have to read this myself, so excuse me here. The golden ratio is two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. Alright, I'm glad you guys all got that. Let's go onto the next subject. Okay, would you like me to explain it visually? Yes, okay. So let's say we have a line and it's 100 things long, alright? Now what we're gonna do is we're gonna take that and we're gonna multiply it by our golden ratio of phi. We end up with this next line at 161.8. We haven't gotten anything interesting yet. We've got two lines. One's a little bit bigger than the other line. Now we're gonna make a third line, and what we're gonna do is we're gonna take that number, multiply it by phi again, and we're gonna get 261.8. Now you might notice something kind of interesting mathematically. If we take the first two lines and add 'em up, they're exactly the same size as the third line, alright? And so the ratio from the first to the second and from the second to the third is exactly the same. So they're equal distance apart in their size. And when you do this, when you take these lines and you take the short and long version and you create a rectangle with it, it becomes a very nice looking rectangular image, and this is called the golden rectangle. And this is pretty similar to the lines that we frame up our subjects with in our camera. So this is one to 1.6, and if you recall, in most of our cameras, it's one to 1.5. So it's slightly different than that. And so this has a lot of history in the world of art, and generally, in the history of the world as well. So let's take some lines that all follow these proportions. And we're gonna start adding 'em up. And remember, when we take one and the next and the next, it equals the next size up. And so, mathematically speaking, they create some interesting shapes. Let's go ahead and continuing on, so we got some perfect triangle there, and now we have a perfect pentagram. And so these lines, mathematically, they work very well together, and there's only one number like that that has this ratio that is exactly the same as you move from one line to the next. And this is the Parthenon in Greece, and many have found that this golden ratio fits within this structure very, very easily if they start measuring out different measurements within the structure of it. The Mona Lisa's face is a golden rectangle. I've taken a look at some of my photographs to see if I can find where these shapes and lines work out. One of my favorite photographs here. Just trying to find different lines that work. I might be stretching it on this last one just a little bit. (audience chuckling) And you know, this seems a little bit conspiratorial in my mind. It's like is this really going on? And you know, kinda the more realist in me says well, if you got something that's this big right here, and we wanna have something else that's a little different, you don't wanna do that, 'cause that and that really aren't that different. You wanna have something that's notably different. But if you do something that's radically different, it's no, it's a nice next step is what it is. So the frames that we have in most of our full-frame cameras or most of our crop-frame cameras is gonna be this one to 1.5 ratio. So it's pretty close. It's a little bit more boxy than this. The Micro Four Thirds cameras and a lot of the point and shoot cameras and a lot of the phones are using a four by three aspect ratio. So it's a little bit boxier again in that regard. HDTV, this TV that we got right here in the studio is 16 by nine, and that's a little bit wider. So it's kind of in between these formats that we are constantly using in a variety of areas. Now there's some interesting things that you can do because this is like a mathematically perfect number. And so if you make the long side equal to the short side, you've of course ended up with an absolute perfect square, 'cause these are imperfect ratio. And you can continue to do this to take that long side down to the short side, and you've ended up with another perfect square. Now where these lines are can be extended and can create what is called the golden selection. Does this look familiar to anything that we've seen in the last 15 minutes or so? Alright, very similar to the rule of thirds. Well, we can continue on with this concept and keep taking these down to a smaller and smaller size, pushing that box off to the side. And we end up with a kind of nice little interesting pattern. And then what we can do is we can draw a line equally curved through each of these boxes, and we end up with something that is called a Fibonacci spiral. This named after a mathematician who, I don't know if he discovered this, but really, you know, brought light to this particular formula. And it is very similar to the rule of thirds. You know, where is the key subject going? It's going in the upper-left, the upper-right, the lower-right, the lower-left third of the picture. And so it's just reinforcing that concept of the rule of thirds. And you'll see this in your photos most likely if you just frame things up the way you think that they should naturally be there. Now was this in my mind when I shot this photograph? No, I learned about this Fibonacci circle, spiral after this. So maybe that's why I just naturally came to like this. It's one of those things that just naturally works really well. So kinda continuing on the thought process of the rule of thirds, remember where they are, putting the horizon. Is it on the high side or on the low side of the frame? And so thinking about where is the horizon line in your photograph? Is it in the middle, is it low, or is it high? 'Cause it's gonna have a different feeling, and sometimes, you're gonna wanna push it up or push it down rather than just have it straight in the middle. Because if we put it straight in the middle, depending on what you're trying to tell in that particular story, it may be more effective to move it down or move it up. They all have their own different feeling to it. And sometimes, you shoot both and you deal with it later, 'cause you don't know exactly how it's going to be used. And so if you have great foreground subjects, that's oftentimes where you're gonna have a high horizon. We've still got some pretty nice sky here, but it really didn't get very good going beyond this. And so I'm gonna keep the high horizon. So when you have interesting textures in the land, good color on the land, something you really wanna draw attention to in the land, you're gonna have a high horizon. When you start getting great skies and not so interesting grounds is when you're gonna have a low horizon in this landscape type photography here, especially those good sunsets. Remember back to the lighting section? Cloud light, right? Remember that cloud light? Really nice puffy clouds. Let's see those. Yin and yang, okay? You're gonna put something off to the side? Well, tell you what. Let's put something dead center. Let's use symmetry. It's one of the ways that we judge beauty, is how symmetrical things are from time to time. So using symmetry, especially finding it where you might not expect it can be really good. And so this is one of my personal favorite types of compositions. I love finding and discovering these little symmetrical places, these great places to put the camera to get that symmetry perfect. This is the main grocery store in a very small town up in Alaska. Yeah, and it's an interesting place because everything needs to either be brought in by boat or by air, and so whatever the cost of that thing is, it's an additional 50 cents per pound if it's brought in by boat, and it's a dollar per pound if it's brought in by air. You can imagine the cost of building a house there. So that perfect symmetry, this street, Trinidad in Cuba. These rocks right down the middle gave me a line perfectly down the middle. Timing those Greek guards crossing, getting that perfect symmetry. Was on a large ship that was moving, and there was one second to get this shot because everything was in movement and it only lined up for that one second. Two doors of a church. Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey. That, by the way, is an 11 millimeter lens. It's as wide as you get not being a fisheye. And so when I was over in Europe, I was in Istanbul and went into a lot of mosques and churches, and they have just stunning, beautiful ceilings, and finding little vignettes of symmetry. It's all over the place there. But lining yourself up and trying to get a nice clean, I mean a lot of times, there's people all cluttered around on the floors, and so I'm pointing up, trying to find a nice spot where I can find a nice, clean part of the ceiling that's gonna make a nice photograph. And they have just such beautiful interiors there that it's, I mean, I feel guilty that I'm just copying their artwork and I'm just there doing a very simple documentary collection of it. And then I spent a day roaming around Rome. I guess that's what you do in Rome, is you roam around, right? (chuckles) And I was going into, you know, there was just like the most stunning church I've ever been in, and then I'd go a block and there would be the next most stunning church I've ever been in. And then just pointing up at the ceilings. This is where it is really nice if you have one of those wide-angle lenses that has image stabilization, because they don't like you using tripods in there, and so you're trying to handhold, and so it's a good time. If you remember back at the very first section of the class, the shutter speed section, where you should know what shutter speeds you can get away with. How slow of shutter speed can I shoot and still get away with things? 'Cause when you're out there shooting, you're not gonna be able to shoot with that tripod in many cases. Now a great place to get symmetry is any sort of reflection. We've seen a couple of reflections so far. But downtown Seattle, actually not too far here from CreativeLive, we've had these, the Elephant Super Car Wash here. It's been forever. It's kind of a trademark in Seattle. It's a real landmark that is an icon. You can see the Space Needle there behind it. And I had an idea for a shot, was I wanted to get that at the twilight time. Remember the lighting section. We talked about the twilight time. And so I knew exactly it needed to be taken roughly about 30 minutes before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset. Alright, now in order to get the reflection shot, I need rain, right? Well, no, I don't want rain right now. I want rain like an hour ago and then stopped now, alright? And so the parameters are I need it 30 minutes after sunset or I need it 30 minutes before sunrise. I need it to have been raining, but not raining now, because if it's raining now, well, it's inconvenient to go out, but it's gonna destroy the reflection, alright? Now if I shoot this at night in the evening, there's gonna be too many cars parked because this is a really busy place. So I can't shoot it in the evening. Okay, we're getting a lot of restrictions on when I can shoot this photo. If I shoot this photo on a business day, Monday through Friday, well, downtown's all really busy even at this time in the morning. I can't shoot it then. The only time I can shoot it is on Saturday or Sunday morning 30 minutes before sunrise when it has rained, but it's currently stopped raining at the very moment. So you just kinda put these in your head as okay, when it meets all of these standards, I'm gonna run out and go get that shot. And I was down there and nobody was out there and I was laying face down in a car wash parking lot looking like an idiot. But I got a nice shot, I think. And so getting down to shoot these reflections, you often have to get very, very low to the ground. This case, you didn't, because this is the Salar de Uyuni, which is this huge flat spot that the water fills up about an inch. It's only about an inch deep out here. You can just walk right out here. Looks like you're Jesus walking on water. And so you don't need to get down too low to the ground there, but in most places, you do. Up in Alaska, on a boat. Symmetry, both top, bottom, and left, right. Using that reflection, mirroring our subject. Be aware of those calm days. We don't get really calm days without ripples in the water very often. How're you gonna shoot a reflection in a fast moving river? Well, you're gonna find a little spot within that side of the river where the water's not flowing. You don't need a very big area. This is just two, three, four feet in size to get that reflection. Of course, you're gonna find reflections at Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier. And one of my favorite reflections, I spent some time in Europe, was in a church. And in this particular church, it's got a beautiful ceiling, and they know that people, when they go into the church, they get tired of doing this because it's, you know, it's hard on the back to look up. And so what they did is they brought out a table and they put a mirror on the table so you could just come down and stare down at the table. And I saw that thing and I was like (gasps) this is awesome! And then I went over to it and it had all these fingerprints on it, so I took out my lens cleaning cloth and I (audience laughing) cleaned up all the fingerprints on it so that I could get this photo here. And so the camera is resting on that mirror. So just trying to think of all the different tools around you. How am I gonna use that? Balance. And so we're kinda starting simple and then we're just gonna add little bits of elements to this as we go along the line. And so I mentioned before, a subject needs a little bit of space. And so kind of determining what feels right versus what feels wrong about the space. And so one option, in this case, we just have this line right down the middle, is to line it right up, down the middle. Go exactly with symmetry, alright? Now another option is to get it notably off to the side. And if you remember the golden ratio, we have a line and we have another line that's not just a little bit bigger, but it's a notable step. We like to go a clear step. And so this is a clear, distinct step difference. Now this is one of those things where it's not all the time, but this doesn't feel as good to me because it's just a little bit off of center. It's not clearly off of center. And it depends on, you know, other things that are going on in the frame. And so typically, I'm gonna wanna have it a little bit further off than just a little bit off. This is really important concept in my mind with the horizon. Does this make you feel uneasy? Just a little bit, you know? I was on a boat up in Alaska, and they have a photo on the boat. And I hope the captain's not watching right now. Great guy, good friend. But the photo is just a little like off side, and that is just, it's unnerving, it's uncomfortable that it's just off side like that. And it's tilted. And yes, it is tilted. So you wanna get that horizon straight. Do the best you can in camera, and a lot of those cameras have those built-in levels. We talked about that in the gadget section. You can add a bubble level to the top or you can have that electronic level turned on in your camera. At the very least, fix it in post. This is something that you can very, very easily fix in Lightroom or other programs. So a subject, another subject, they're doing different things, but there's a balance to the whole image. One's looking one way, one's looking the other. It's an overall balance to 'em. And sometimes, it's harder for me to define things, but there are different elements throughout the frame that draw your attention that all work together. You wanna be very careful about your subjects touching each other, overlapping, covering up part of that subject. As I said before, subjects often wanna have a little bit of space around it. I find that I compose in a similar way with very, very different subjects. And so, I mean, in some ways, these are exactly the same subject, or at least the same composition with different subjects. Different things will draw your attention. The sun will draw your attention to one corner. The sharp contrast of the lines in the salt will draw your attention to the other corner of the frame. This broken down vehicle in Australia, separated by a little bit by the person on the sat phone calling in for help. Balanced. Different elements, those lines. Which direction do they take you? So that curve of the rock and the curve, I believe that's a boojum tree, boojum tree curving over, bringing you to the middle of the frame. On my bike ride up in Alaska, we went on the Dalton Highway. It's a 414 mile road up north of Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. One of the things we were concerned about was giant semitrailers kicking up rocks that could hit you in the head. And so we tried to always slow down. But they were great drivers. They slowed down and really gave us a wide berth. But notice how far off to the right I'm composing the bicyclist here to kinda balance the weight of the truck on the other side of the frame. And so it's almost as if there's a level and there's a fulcrum point and I'm trying to get these things balanced physically visually. In Cuba, poked in my head into the little doorway here. And for me, the mops totally made the shot. Those extra lines just added a nice little balancing element to some of the other features in that particular image. In this case here, having the two figures on the right-hand side looking to our left. Very natural, didn't look nearly as good when they were looking the other direction down the street. So waiting and being very precise about the timing of the shots that you take. Once again, our little penguin. And so beak in, and this is a photograph that I call Harmony. They just seem to be in harmonious sync right there. And so kinda the backstory on this one is I was down in South Georgia, and they drop you off on Zodiacs, and you get to wander the beaches of penguins. It's the only place that I've really seen that felt like the true Walt Disney wilderness experience. I don't know if anyone even remembers the Walt Disney stories. You know, this wilderness and all these animals in it. It's kind of that cartoon where all these animals are singing and playing and we're all getting along. And so many times, I've been to places like Glacier National Park, and I'll go for a 15 mile hike, and I won't see anything but a mosquito. And it's like, where are all the animals? Well, this is one place where you can just walk among the animals and they're curious and they're happy to see ya and they'll come around and they'll peck you on the shin and they'll look at ya, and you know? A lot of fun to be around. And so in this case, there's a lagoon over to one side where the penguins are just kinda hanging out, having fun. And in the lagoon are baby elephant seals. Now, adult elephant seals are kinda ugly and noisy and smelly, but when they're babies, they're really, really cute, and they're just kinda playing around, kinda doing this mock fighting, wrestling in the water. And they're doing this right next to the penguins. They don't even need very much space, and they're just right there. And usually, animals of different species are separated. They wanna have their own little place and they're doing their own thing. And they're just, they're all gettin' along, you know? It's a happy wonderland there. And so obviously, any time you get two different types of animals all in the same shot, that's potential for something kind of interesting here. And so I'm gonna get down a little bit closer, trying to be careful about how close I get, but I'm using my wide-angle lens so I can show the entire environment because this is just an overall beautiful scene in my mind. And there's this one character, and he's standing on a rock out here. I guess this is as good a shot, eh? And notice how he's standing on that rock. I don't know why he's standing on one rock right out there, but he's just a little bit separated and we've always, we've had a lot of cartoons about that one penguin that's gotta be different. "I gotta be me," for anybody that remembers the Gary Larson Far Side cartoons. They had one about a penguin just screaming out, "I gotta be me!" And so this one character is definitely just different than the others. And so the elephant seals are down back behind it, just kinda playing around. And I'm shooting, getting my camera. My camera is all set for the correct exposure. I've nailed the focus, I've dialed all that stuff in. Now, it's all about composition and timing. And so dial in those early settings, worrying about composition. Now one of the things, if I ever have a wildlife class, I don't know when that one's gonna happen, but maybe some point in the future, one of the things you wanna be thinking about, but it's also with people photography is eye contact. Is that eye looking at the camera? Is the eye looking at something else? Can you see the eye or not? And in this case, penguin is looking at me. Penguin's kind of, okay, buddy, what are you doing? What are you doing? Now these two characters, they're just kinda playing with each other. And normally, we want eye contact. And so they go up and they scream. And penguin closes his eye, so we have no eye contact. Seals are having fun on their own. No eye contact. So normally, the rule is you want eye contact or you wanna be able to see the eyes 'cause that really sees what the subject is doing. But remember, yin yang, opposites work. In this case, in my mind, it feels like these creatures have no idea that you are there with the camera. It is the feeling that this is just naturally what it looks like, with no influence from the photographer at all. And so I think it works even though there's no visible eye in this at all. However, a moment later, they all looked at me. Did you get that? (audience laughing) Can you post that to our Flickr account? (audience chuckling) Next up, let's think about the framing of our subject and using elements around us. And so this is one of the few cases where sometimes, backing up and including other elements in the frame can help you out. So obviously, down at Arches, great place to stand, although now it is illegal to stand here because they don't like photographers standing here to shoot photos, so this is now an illegal photograph to shoot. But framing with a little bit of that subject around you, a secondary subject. And so this seemed kind of crazy. You go out to the tulips, beautiful tulips, and there's this broken down old school bus, which is where they store supplies. I'm gonna go up in the school bus to take photos of the tulips. And it's just 'cause I wanted these framing elements, and it's such a stark contrast to the insides of the bus. Places our subject within a larger environment that makes you think more about what's going on in that particular photo. Down in the Redwoods, there was a tree that had fallen over that had just, it was giant in size, and the root ball of it had worn away, and I was able to back myself into this tree as if I was a hobbit. And got the photo from the inside with a wide-angle lens. And it just kinda gives you a different perspective of that forest. And so think about places that you can back up to or places that you can shoot through, where your subject is gonna be framed up by the natural elements that are around it. And so this is one of the few cases where sometimes, you gotta back up to get a better view, put it in contrast to the other subjects that are around it. This was more of a case of oh my gosh, look at that. Stop the car right now. Is there anything else that I can add to this? Just because shooting the rainbow with nothing was just a rainbow. And so it's like, well, there's this little cabin here. Just go there and find that, and that'll be within the frame. And so finding some sort of element that can be added to it. And so in this case, it's a very, very light framing element, but these grasses in the corner, grasses in the bottom left and the bottom right are lines that bring your eyes further to the inside, and so they're just nice little buffer on the side, keeping your eyes going more towards the middle. Moving forward and back, framing up your subject to fit it in the frame. A frame within a frame within a frame, repetitive pattern. I was having a lot of fun in Croatia and Italy, finding these narrow cobblestone walkways and these little entrances to little patios and entrances to homes. And so having this little darker area on the top, nice little arch up there to help frame up the subject. Shooting through windows. It was a couple years ago, I went down, here in Seattle on New Year's Eve, they fire fireworks off the top of the Space Needle. And I've shot it from the base of the Space Needle and I've shot it from one location and the other location. I was always just trying to find a different place to go shoot it. And so I wanted to go down to the EMP, the Experience Music, EMP, Experience Music Project, forgot the project part, to photograph because they have this purple wall, and it would make for a very cool reflection in there. And so I got there, I don't know, two hours before they started to fire 'em off, and I set my camera up. And I took one test photo and the security guard said, "You gotta get outta here. "This whole area is getting closed off." (sighs) This is my whole plan. You know, everybody had scouted out and they had found the best place to stand to go watch the fireworks. This is, it's now 11 o'clock, New Year's Eve, thousands of people on every hilltop, on every good vantage point of the Space Needle is gone. And I'm walking around the Space Needle area going, "Where's my shot? "Where's my shot?" Because I can't get a clear shot anymore. I said, "Okay, well maybe I don't need a clear shot." And so I went to where there was nobody else standing around, and I got this shot. It's obscured, fine, okay. It's framing the subject, the unconventional position. And I'm happy with it. And there is a sequel to this story, which I think is interesting. I think I have the time, I'll share it with you. I got contacted by a book manufacturer who specializes in photography education books. And they said, "We saw this photo," 'cause I don't know, somebody copied it off their screen right now and they posted it on their website or they saw it somehow and they contacted me, said, "We would like to use this "for our book on composition and framing and so forth." I said, "Okay, well great. "What do I get paid?" (chuckles) And they said, "We don't pay photographers "for their photographs." And I said, "What?" I said, "No." "Well, we'll pay if it's a cover shot, "but we're not gonna use this for the cover." And I looked at the list of the books that they produce, and they produce all these books about being a professional photographer, how do you make a living being a professional photographer, when they won't even pay for your photograph. And so this photograph is not featured in their books. You will only see it here. Alright. Think about the foreground versus the background. And so we've talked about having a clean background, but really think about the relationship of the subjects in the foreground versus the background. And so finding an element in an already nice environment, positioning the camera in the best possible position. And a lot of times, this takes a little bit of scouting, and you can't just go after the first item that you see. You really gotta look around. And a lot of times, I gotta admit to ya, getting down low to the ground and getting your tripod down there and your knees get kinda busted up, and I will carry a foam pad with me so that I can comfortably kneel or sit or lie on the ground, and I will keep that in my backpack for many types of situations so that I can comfortably get there and be comfortable about shooting. 'Cause if you're not comfortable shooting, this kinda goes into a whole different field, but if you're not out there comfortable shooting, you're not gonna shoot good pictures. And so whatever it takes to be comfortable out there in that environment, you need to take care of. And so thinking about our foreground and background, having those two different subjects makes the subject a little bit more interesting than just having one subject, one and done. Now having separate subjects. This is the racetrack down in Death Valley. These rocks move when they get blown down or fall down from the hillside, and then it freezes and then they slide across the slick surface and they create this little bit of mud streak. And you go out there, and they're sitting there years later with this streak of mud behind it. Getting down low to the ground in Death Valley, showing this dried up mud area. Showing the trail going up to Mount Rainier, including that foreground, some leading lines is something else we'll talk about in another section.

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