Well, the class is taking another turn and transition. We started off very technical, and as I mentioned at the very beginning, we're gonna be now getting a little bit more artistic. And I'll have to be honest with you, I am, I feel a little surprised. I never would have guessed that I would have been up lecturing people on composition when, from my younger days. I was just never really that artistic of a person, and when we get into art, it's a very challenging subject because, I mean, when I think back to my younger days as to what's art? Painting, statues, stuff in a building that you aren't supposed to talk in. (audience laughs) That was art. And then I learned that art just wasn't for things that were beautiful. There could be things that could be functional as well and then art could be anything. You could go to a fast food restaurant, get the dumpster and dump everything out, put it in a room with white walls, serve everybody champagne, and it's art. Art can be whatever you want...
. And so in photography, photography is an art, and if you want, you can take any photograph you want and you can call it beautiful. That's your right, you have that right. I may not find that beautiful, and so that's a personal choice that we get to make. And so I have had to somehow find a way of, I don't know, justifying what is beautiful and what is not beautiful. And I kinda have my own reasoning for things that we will kind of go through in here. And so one of the things that I don't accept at this point in time is, anything can be beautiful. All right, I've opened myself up that anything can be beautiful, and as a photographer you will find that preconceptions of what you thought were going to be something, something else can be fantastic, and a lot of things can be wonderful. But, I don't accept somebody who says, "I like this photo, it's a great photo. "I don't know why, but it's a great photo." If you don't know why, you need to learn about photography. You need to learn about composition, you need to learn about why you like it, because if you can't identify what you like in a photograph, how are you ever going to learn from that, replicate that, and try to shoot that again? And so what I've tried to do, and it's hard, is to try to identify, "I like this aspect, "and I don't like this aspect." And the more that you can identify about your own photographs or anyone else's, the better you'll be able at recreating these things 'cause when you're out in the world and you're composing yourself, you're like, "Well, this is a good element, "I know that, and this is a bad element, "but if I combine these it's even better." And so that's what we're going to be looking at is really trying to break things down to make things understandable. And I'm sorry, I just like to try to make things logical, logical and understandable, so that's what we're gonna be doing in this class. So as I said, we started with very, very technical stuff, and now we're getting into the artistic side of photography. Before we get into that, I would like to start off with my formula for taking great photos. There's a certain number of things that you need, and if you don't have what you need, I really don't think you can take great photos in many ways. The first thing that you need, and this is probably the easiest of the whole bunch, is a camera. You can use your phone, you can use your point-and-shoot, you can use your 20 year old camera, you can use your film camera, you can use your modern camera, it doesn't really matter. You can create great artwork with any camera out there. There are some things that are dependent on having the right equipment, and we've talked about those cameras in previous sections of this class. This is a really important one: you need time. Trying to create something beautiful in a short time span is really, really difficult. I just cringe when I hear somebody going to Europe and they're gonna visit seven countries in five days. (chuckles) Just like, that is not enough time. I'm trying, when I go traveling and I'm gonna be someplace taking photos, 'cause I like to do a lot of travel photography, I'm trying to spend as much time there as possible. On one of my first big trips I went to Iceland. And me and my friend decided to go there for six weeks, that's a long time to be in one country, but you really get to see it and get to learn it very well, and you get time to be free and explore and try different things, and so if you want to create good photos, try to give yourself as much time as you can. I know that things can be rushed, but you just, that's what you need to do. All right, third thing is, is that you actually do need to actually put out a little bit of effort from time to time. I jokingly like to say, if you're unwilling to roll down the car window to improve your shot, don't expect that you're gonna get great photos. And this can mean all sorts of things, it can mean getting up early, it can mean pushing dinner to much later in the evening than you would normally like it 'cause you want to wait and get the shot. Sometimes you've gotta ask permission and you've gotta fill out forms, and you gotta do this and that, you gotta do all sorts of things to get yourself in the right place at the right time to get the shot, and it takes effort. You gotta put that effort in, it doesn't come easily. If it did, everyone would be taking those photographs. The final thing that you need, and you're addressing this right now, so you're doing this part right, is knowledge level. You need to know how photography works, you need to know how your camera works, you need to know about the subject that you are shooting. The more you can learn about it, the more you know about it, the better you'll be able to get good photos of that. So if you're not getting good photos, look at this, and really consider where you are short changing yourself and what can you do to change that and improve the photos. And I still look at this, and I know I need to do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, some of this, and so there's always ways to improve your photography. There is no end to how good a photographer you can be, and it's just a matter of you putting out the effort to address all these other issues. All right, this section is composition, so we're gonna be talking about what you can do once you've decided the subject that you want to shoot, how do you frame it up? Shoot it from here, shoot it from there, up, down, left, right, what are some things that you can do to improve your photographs? And like, remember back at the very beginning of the class, I told you about the first great photograph, well, I thought it was great, I took of my friends running, is I got down to a low angle, and I changed what I was doing as a photographer to improve the quality of the subject. That's really what this whole section is about. And so, I've got lots of different concepts and ideas, and I love watching other photographers talk about composition, 'cause I love hearing new ideas, and a lot of these ideas, I did not invent. These are ideas that have been passed down from one photographer to the other. One thing that kind of just irks at me, just, I don't know if I have a little bit of OCD, I just don't like photographers saying, "I'm going to give you some compositional ideas, "and they're just not in any sort of order, "I'm just gonna give some random ideas to you." I like being presented ideas in a logical order so I can kind of group them and think about them in a very orderly way, and that's what I've tried to do in here is really organize things in a very simple way and we'll go through a few basics and then go through some different ideas. And in here I do have, I've mentioned this previously, I have got actually a couple of new ideas that I haven't had in any previous class before, and one of them I don't agree with. But I've put it in my class because it's commonly talked about out in the world of composition. I don't agree with it, I have physical evidence as to why it's wrong, but there is something to be thought about in it, so we're gonna talk about that. And then we have another one that, it's just kind of had my brain thinking, and I've heard it talked about in some slightly different ways and I've finally been able to give it a name and really identify how to work it in the field and it's a gem, it works pretty much every single time and can really just bring a photograph up a little bit in quality and so I'm very excited to share that one with you coming up here in a little bit. One of the biggest things that new photographers need to learn about is simplifying. The camera can record a lot of information and the brain can filter out a lot of things and it's amazing how the brain versus the eyes versus the camera works, and we're actually going to be looking at this in the last section called photographic vision, which is related to composition. And what we need to do as photographers in many cases is to simplify the subject that we get. Have you ever, you've heard about a case where there's a fire, and people need to leave their house right away, and they have one minute to grab everything that's important and put it in a box and run out of the house. All right, well you kinda got to think about that when you're shooting a photograph. "If I only could put a couple things in the photograph, "what would that be?" Because in a photograph, that box, that's what we deal with in photography is we get boxes. We don't shoot circular pictures very often. We get a box of some shape. It's square, it's long, but that's all we get and when we're showing somebody, that's all they know, in many cases, about what we're doing. And so we have to be really, really careful about what we put in that box, because the people viewing our photographs don't know our intentions. All they see is a picture, and we have to give them the best one we can. Niagara Falls, beautiful place, and I like this shot, it's a nice shot. And when you go to a place like this, you kind of are overwhelmed at the stunning beauty all around you, but that's hard to translate to somebody who's never been there. And you're not going to be able to do it by taking a fisheye lens of everything you see. So sometimes you just have to hint at the beauty and so one of the things that's very important is those telephoto lenses. Just go in and show a little portion of your subject and give people a hint of what's going on. You know what, I've found that most people are pretty smart, and they pick up on clues very quickly. You don't need to give everybody the entire story. And one of the things that I really like in a photograph is a little bit of mystery. Just give me a hint, give me a push in the right direction, and I will take it the rest of the way myself, and that way everybody gets to interpret a little bit more about what's going on. And so sometimes, shooting in tight, not showing everything, is perfectly fine. And we'll talk about this more as we kinda get through the class, this is just kind of a preview of where we're going. Does it mean that telephoto lenses are always the best lens to use? I was up in the tulip fields, and there was a tulip field just filled with pink flowers, and there was another field that had no flowers with the exception of this one. And so that's the one that interests me because it's something that stands out, and so I went over and I used my telephoto lens and I got in really tight, and I shot with shallow depth of field to blur out the background so that your eyes went straight to that flower and nothing else, there's no doubt about what's the main subject of this photograph. And then I got up, and I went over to go photograph the rest of the fields, and I looked back, and lo and behold, somebody else comes up and takes like the exact same photo I'm taking. I can just tell by where they're positioned, and what they're shooting. Okay, granted, I did not have the matching jacket at the time, and so they did it with a little bit more style than I did and it kind of made me mad because it felt like, well maybe this is the shot that everyone takes. And I don't want to take, and a lot of us are always trying to take something a little different. I mean, that's part of the fun of photography is doing something a little bit different than everyone else. And so after she left, I decided to go back and give it a second try. And just, you know, change my perspective, change things around, do something different, and the photo I came up on my second try is this one, which was a more wide angle shot, I'm showing a bit more of the scene around it, but that scene helps support what that subject is. And so it's not that I prefer the telephoto lens or the wide angle lens, it's just appropriate for telling that particular story. A lot of times when I was early on in photography, I would take a picture of something that was great and then I would show it to another photographer for a critique, and then they would say, "Well what about this, and what about this, "and what about this, and what about that?" I'm like, "Well, no, that's not the subject. "This is the subject, this is the good thing." And it's kind of like writing. If you've ever written something and you had somebody edit it, it's like "You've got all these extra words, "you don't need these words in here." And there's all these little extra things that can be part of the photograph that beginning photographers kind of dismiss as it's not that important. And I think most of us could realize, like there's a serious problem with this photograph. But some people are like, "Oh, don't worry about that head, "somebody just happened to walk in front of me." No, that's a really important thing. You know, wait for that person to move out of the way. Clean that up so that you don't have any distractions in there. Okay, you know, some distractions can almost be funny. (audience laughs) All right, that gets to be a little bit too much. And so there are little tiny things that are really important. And you see those edges? There's just a little bit of that doorframe that is peeking in from the edges, and those are distracting, especially the fact that they are lighter than the surrounding area. This is a good time for taking a half step forward or zooming in, or slightly cropping later on. You really have to be concerned about everything in that frame. Up at an air show I got this shot which I kind of like, it's a nice clean shot, the blue and yellow works really good. But this was a really cluttered environment and this was kind of an unusual shot to get. You had to be in just the right place. In fact, let me show you a video of what it really looked like in the area. Look at all of that clutter and stuff around, but if you get just right up in the right area, you get yourself a nice clean shot that doesn't have all that other stuff that's distracting around. All right, let's take a look here. All right, I'm going to need some audience participation here. What are some things in this photograph that you do not like? Somebody raise your hand and let's get a microphone, and I want you to tell me, this is an opportunity folks, tell me what you don't like about my photographs, okay? Who would like to just, tell us something here?
The little branches sticking in on the right hand side.
Okay, that's a good thing. Somebody else, tell me something else you don't like. Get the microphone, and let's hear what you have to say.
Maybe the water in front?
The wires in the background here?
The wires and the water down below.
The water down here, kind of dark down there. Yeah, those are some things that are kind of distracting from this particular type of scene. And so let's see a little video of me moving my camera from a bad position about a foot and a half to a better position right here, and the photograph that I took from here. We don't have those things that don't really belong in this photograph, and this really does kind of remind me, you remember watching Sesame Street? Who watched Sesame Street? You remember the game, which one of these items doesn't belong? Okay, that's what you're doing in your photograph. What doesn't belong in the photograph? And even though it's pretty small and they're off to the side, they matter, because they're in that little box, and so what's in that box really, really matters. So we've got to put the good stuff in the box. So the first obvious thing for composition is just get in close. Have your subject fill the frame because that' what you want your pixels on, that's what you want people to see, and so you can just not allow virtually anything else, now you don't want to go right up to the edge, but just fill the frame with the stuff you want and that's gonna be a good start to taking good photos, only the things that you want in the frame. Now as I mentioned right at the top of this class, mystery is a good thing, and this is just sometimes not showing the whole thing, or being totally clear, or maybe being just a tad bit on the abstract side. And so, I don't know that these are fantastic photos, but they're kind of fun and interesting photos because they make you think a little bit about what is that, what's going on? And I don't have to show you anything. I mean this could be anywhere, and one of the things that's beautiful about photography is you know what this is? This is just an old car seat in Cuba. You know, just a portion of it, but your mind is like, "Where does it come from? "what is it, how does it look and why is it that color?" And so not showing everything is a really good choice in some cases. It depends on what you're trying to do with your photograph. I mean, if you're trying to sell a product, very generic image, I don't know, maybe you want this as a background image, you know, you have a bath soap that you're selling and you just kind of want some water in the background, that's perfectly fine. It's a nice, clean pattern background. One of my favorite photos from Petra. We talked about this earlier, is it just kind of hints at greatness and your brain kind of continues on and figures it out and kind of fantasizes about what else is there, how big is this, what else is going on? And so, when they're coming down the street, you don't have to show every single person. Just show enough to make a small pattern. We'll talk about patterns in another section in here, but just a little bit of what's going on, and it's interesting for the brain to kind of figure things out. I mean, we like watching movies and we like reading books that have a story to it, and they kind of present little bits of information and we like kind of following along to figure things out. We don't necessarily want everything just laid out right in front of us. So if you do want to show some mystery in your photograph, you can show just a part of it, using an unconventional technique, you can use a blur technique, either a slow shutter speed or maybe panning with a slow shutter speed. And so, for composition, generally, a lot of the times you're trying to simplify the chaos, and there's a lot of stuff going on and you just want to get things a little bit more ordered. Watch out for those intrusions, things coming in on the side of the frame. You can fill it, and you can even do more than fill it and hide a little, to add a little bit of mystery to it, getting in nice and close. I rarely will take a great photo first time out of the camera bag with the camera. I got to shoot a photo, and then my idea of what that photo is going to look like is suddenly a little bit different than what I saw on the back of the screen or in the viewfinder, and I got to try something a little different, and I got to try something a little different. Maybe the exposure isn't what I was expecting with my own eyes, or I thought it would be good here and then I have to change it again. And so a good example of that is one I've shown in years past but I think it holds true now. Over in the Ballard Locks area there are these sculptures and they're kind of interesting, and as you walk across, you'll see them. I imagine a lot of people have taken this photo here 'cause they kind of get struck right then. "Oh, these are kind of interesting. "Pull out the camera, let's take a photo right here," and that's what you get. Well, first rule, we already talked about, is get closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject. But there's a lot of other distracting elements here. And I can tell you right now that there is really no place that you can stand here where there's not going to be distracting elements in this particular environment, there's just a lot of stuff around it, and there is no way to shoot all of them without any distracting elements in a really clean manner. But that's kind of the mistake a lot of people make is they're trying to shoot all of them. Well, who says you have to shoot all of them? You could shoot one of them with a low angle camera pointing up with a nice clean background of the sky. Or you could shoot parts of them with a telephoto lens using shallow depth of field to kind of hint at one thing or the other. And so these are actual photos of me just kind of working the problem, 'cause it is kind of like a math problem, you've got to go through all the equations and try this one and try that. And it ended up that my favorite shot of the bunch was this one here. Now, I imagine if I worked for the local insurance company I would probably be fired on the spot for not taking good photos that show what I am trying to insure or something. But that's not my job. I'm just trying to take interesting pictures that I think look good on their own, and sometimes that's very different than trying to show something in its entirety. And so, lot of different ways of thinking about this. And so what we want to do right now is take you out in the field and show you how I composed a shot that we did on our pre-shoot, and what I was thinking about in order to get a better shot for that particular situation. For any shot that you really want to be great, there's a number of different things that you need to look at, and the first thing is your subject, what are you shooting? And we've got Rachel, and look at her, she looks fantastic. And so we know we have a good subject, but we can't just shoot her here. We've got vents and outlets up against the wall, and so now, if I want to shoot a subject, I'm thinking, "Where is the subject going to be? "What's the background going to be?" And as I stand here and peruse out here, we've got benches and some plain old grass that's not that interesting. And I'm not feeling it here, and so we're going to have to take a walk and try to find something that just looks better, has a cleaner environment, less clutter, less things that are conflicting from our great subject. So we're gonna have to go for a little scouting mission here. All right, as we were saying, with any shot that you want to take a picture of, first thing is think about a good quality subject. Next thing that you want to be thinking about is lighting. Today we have cloudy, slightly rainy skies here in Seattle, so lighting's pretty even everywhere we go. So we could really shoot a photo almost anywhere, which is kind of nice. Second thing you want to be thinking about is background and the area around your subject. So, along this trail we found this straight wood boardwalk which looks like a great place for lining up our subjects. It kind of, right now it's reminiscent for me of a railroad track but it's much, much safer 'cause it's designed for walking. And so, we don't want to encourage people going out onto railroad tracks 'cause that's dangerous and so this is a great place to be shooting a subject. And those lines, those railroad style lines are nice directional lines. They bring your eye into the photograph from the corner, they're framing our subject, and so it's a really good element. Now, I got my subject out here on the boardwalk, she's looking great even though it's miserably rainy out here and now I need to figure out where I want to be. And I don't have a lot of room to move around here and so I can't just go off into the woods here, I'm not supposed to do that, and so it kind of puts me straight in line, and I love symmetry in a photograph and so when everything's symmetrical, it can look really good in a lot of photographs and so what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna make sure that our model is right in the middle of the path and I'm gonna be in the middle as well because these lines are gonna sweep up right around her and frame her. Now, a lot of times it feels like just standing here and taking the photo is too easy, and I need to work harder and look for a different angle of view. And so a lot of times, it's a lot easier to get shorter than it is to get taller, and so I want to come down and shoot, but the fact of the matter is, is that right now I'm shooting up, let me shoot a photograph and show you the problem here, is I'm getting a house in the background with some white sky, and the eye is attracted to bright subjects. So we got our model in a bright red dress which is clearly gonna attract a lot of attention, but I don't want this bright white sky detracting from the situation. So it actually looks better when I get up here and I eliminate that house and that bright sky up there. Now we have a nice clean, smooth background, and it's out of focus. I'm using an 85 millimeter lens and I'm shooting with very shallow depth of field, so the background is going out of focus. So I've lined up, got my subject, we've got our location, we've got our background I've figured out where I want to be on this, and I think the final part is on some posing and getting ourselves to look good here in the photograph, and so, we're gonna leave that up to our model here, and let's see a few different poses on your part. Okay, that looks good. (camera shutter clicking) Let's try facing a little bit off to the side. There you go, oh, that looks good. And I'm being very careful not to get that house and that bright sky in the background. All right, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to have you move back about three steps, and I'm gonna have you walk towards me. I just want to get a little bit of a walking shot, but she doesn't need to walk all the way back to the end of the boardwalk. I'm just gonna get her in just the midst of a couple of shots, and I'm not going to worry about focus tracking on this one, I'm just going to figure out where I want it in focus, and I'm just gonna focus a few feet in front of where she is right now, and let's have you go ahead and walk forward. (camera shutter clicking) Good. And so I was just being very careful on the timing so that I shot the photo when her leg was in a very nice movement here. I don't want to shoot the leg when it's kind of in an awkward position, and so, you know, right where it's very outstretched or someplace where it looks good and the legs are kind of separated from each other. And I'm gonna have you do that one more time just so that I can be sure that I got that. And, ready, go. (camera shutter clicking) Okay. And, that looks pretty good. I think I may like the posed one a little bit more, but when you're thinking about making a great shot, you gotta attack it from all the different angles that you can think about. Subject, lighting, background, surrounding area, your point of view, lights in the background, and then what your subject is actually doing and timing it at the right time. You address all of those and you're going to end up with a lot of great photos. Okay, hopefully that gives you an idea of how I approached that in the field, and I gotta tell you, I hate these things in the sense that the CreativeLive crew comes out and we've got all these people and they're filming me, and it's kind of like, "Okay, you're on the spot, John, "let's get a great photo!" And when you're in an area that just doesn't have much to work with, I feel the stress that I know some of you have when it's like, "Wow, they made it look so easy!" No, it feels hard for me too, 'cause it's like is there something I can work with? And I was so happy when I found that boardwalk 'cause it was something to work with. And that's what you need to do is you need to just have a little bit of time to explore around and just keep your mind open to all the different things that you can use 'cause there's no end to the solutions that are potential out there. It's really limited by your creativity.