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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 24 of 107

Subject Zone


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 24 of 107

Subject Zone


Lesson Info

Subject Zone

Alright, so we've been talking about lenses and angle of view and focal length and there's one more little bit I wanna talk about and it's something I haven't heard a lot of other photographers talk about and it's really important to sports photographers. How many people in here shoot sports from time to time, so action photography? It can be very important, and so there's something that I describe as the subject zone, and that's the area your subject needs to be within to be photographed. And so where do you need to be and where does your subject need to be and how do lenses play into that? And the idea that I wanna get across is that big lenses have big subject zones. And this is one of the reasons, not the only reason, but one of the reasons why professional sports photographers use really big lenses. Now, I have done a lot of photography of runners and with runners, you have kind of the option of shooting them when they're right next to you or much further away from you, on the tra...

ck, for instance. And so we wanna think about a situation where you could be any distance from your subject. Now, in many cases, you're not allowed to be that close, but let's just, in this example, think about, what if I could use any lens to photograph my subject? What would be the best lens? Alright? And so think about, you're at the finish line and a runner is coming towards you and you wanna grab a bunch of photos. Which lens should you use in order to take that picture? So let's imagine everything from a 24 to a millimeter lens, and as that runner comes towards you, what do you want to do? Well, you want to capture as many pixels on that subject as possible. You want to fill the frame with your subject, which means you should probably shoot vertical. And so obviously, a subject filling the frame would be a good shot, but how much earlier should you start shooting? Well, you don't wanna shoot when they're too far away cause they're gonna be too small in the frame. And where I think you should start shooting, in many cases, is when they are about half the size of the entire frame. That's where you'll get at least a reasonable result and then as they get closer, you can continue to shoot. And so when it's half the size of the frame, this is the back end of this subject zone that I'm talking about, and when they fill the frame, that is the front end of their subject zone. And so it's between these two lines that you want to be shooting your sports photos, because that's where you're gonna be getting the best quality images. You can shoot with them before, and you're just gonna have to enlarge them quite a bit. And you can continue to shoot, and I would continue to shoot, focusing more and more on the face to get kind of a crop shot, but if you are trying to get a full body shot, that's where it ends up being. And so that is what I call the subject zone. Now, when you shoot with a 24 millimeter lens, it has a very wide angle of view, which means your subject needs to be very close to you to fill the frame. And where does the back end of the zone go? Well, because of that wide angle of view, it's not very far back, so there's a very short distance between the front and the back of the zone there. Let's change up to a 100 millimeter lens. It's a little bit further from the camera, but the back of the zone moves significantly further back because of that narrower angle of view. When you use a very long lens, a 400 millimeter lens, you're much further from your subject, but the back of the zone extends much, much further back and gives you a much larger zone in which to work with. So, 24, 50, 100, 200, 400, which lens should you use? Well, if you were to shoot with a 24 millimeter lens, I can calculate and I have calculated how big that zone is going to be. It's only 1.25 meters. Now, the interesting math here is very simple. When you double the focal length, you double the size of the zone that you are in and so the bigger lenses are gonna give you more room in which to shoot your subject if it's going to be in that subject. And so as we get out here, each one doubles the entire area that we were working with in the previous one and when you get up to a 400, you have a very large zone in which you're taking your photos. Now, let's take this a step further. A runner at 25 kilometers an hour, which is a real fast sprint for a runner, that means they're covering one meter every .144 seconds, okay? Now, I can then calculate, how long are they in the zone? So if you're standing on the side of the marathon course and they're running by you, how long are they gonna be in a good position for you to photograph? And you can see that they are gonna be in position with the 400 millimeter lens for a lot longer. Let's take this a step further and calculate a camera that is shooting at 10 frames a second. How many shots do we get to shoot with our subject in that frame? With a 24 millimeter lens, you get one shot and I hope that they're in the right position and they have a good facial expression because that's your one and only shot. With a 400 millimeter lens, you're gonna get 28 opportunities to shoot a photograph that might have all the elements working for it just right. And so, a lot of times, sports photographers are just regulated too far off on the sidelines because that's where they have to be. But sometimes, in different types of sports, might be bicycle racing or you could be shooting volleyball and it's kind of a casual match and you're right there next to them, and so you could be a variety of distances from your subject. And so let's go to the side of a field here. So let's just say you're able to get right on midfield and photograph with a 50 millimeter lens, you're only photographing people and things that are happening right around you. You got yourself a 500 millimeter lens, you can cover about half that field in front of you. Anything that happens in there, you're gonna be able to cover somebody moving around doing something. So a number of photographers will work with something like a 500 and a 70 to 200, and that covers a huge swath of that field. Those big lenses have really big zones. So at a big cross country meet, I don't have a zoom lens, this is a all a fixed lens, but I can get a number of photos in a row where I'm capturing everybody head to toe and I'm not moving position at all. And what I've found, at least with runners, is that there's a lot of good and interesting moments if you're able to shoot a whole bunch of photos over a couple of seconds, because in a couple of seconds, there's a lot of changes that happen. People will look down at the ground, and then they'll look back up and then they'll have a funny facial expression, and it'll be gone a tenth of a second later and this just gives you the most opportunities for getting interesting shots in a short period of time. And so in many cases, it might be better to move further back and work with a bigger lens rather than getting forward. It's just one of the factors that play into this. And so the subject zone is the area your subject needs to be within and so that is gonna end up being a big lens. So as we end up our talk on angle of view and focal length here, one of the things that you can do when you talk to a photographer or you see a photograph that you like, you might ask them, "Why did you choose that lens?" And here are the types of answers that I expect that you're going to get. "It was the right lens for the subject," which means it had the right angle of view, it had the right depth of field, it had the necessary light gathering ability for that particular situation. I've found that myself, if you asked me about a lot of the things that I shot, I would probably say, "It was the only lens that would work." You know, this is how this subject has to be shot. There's only one tool that solves a problem and this is the one that solves it. The one that you won't hear me answer, and I don't think you'll hear from anybody else, is, "I was too lazy to move." And I know some people, they get zoom lenses and they're like, "Oh, good. "Now I don't have to move forward and back. "I can just zoom the lens back and forth." No, no, you need to keep moving forward and back to figuring out where the right point of view to view your subject is, and then the right angle of view for what you want in the frame. So this slide here will show you what lenses I like to use. Now, this is just me, this is personal, but I think it's interesting to study what you do and how you shoot. And I told you, I like the 24 millimeter lens and I have evidence here that I do tend to use it a lot. But when I did this, I was surprised at how much I shoot with a short telephoto lens, and I am not a portrait photographer. I love shooting portraits from time to time and I enjoy that but that's not what I do for the most part. But that is really easy to get a lot of good shots with the short telephoto lens. Getting good shots with a wide angle lens is hard because you need a lot of stuff to look good in front of you. Right now, from right where I'm standing, if I had a 400 millimeter lens, I could pick off a lot of nice little shots, but with a 24 millimeter lens, I'm gonna be a little bit harder to figure out, there's only gonna be a couple of shots with a wide angle lens from any one place. And so when I walk out the door with a 24 millimeter lens and a 100 millimeter lens, I'm gonna be able to do a lot with that. If I go out with a 24 to 70 and a 70 to 200, that's most everything I might need and only in those extreme cases do I need to go down to 11-16 or 400 and 800. Now, the numbers that I have been talking about in this class are just some kind of nice, even increments of focal lengths. 16, 24, 35, 50, and so forth. But obviously, there's a lot of other focal lengths and if you have zoom lenses, you can stop anywhere you want in between. And so I encourage you to play around with your lenses and keep note of where you like to shoot them. Maybe, if you shoot photos at 28 millimeters a lot, maybe someday you should get a 28 millimeter fixed lens just so that that one lens you know is something that you can work with and be very, very happy with. Now, a few of my favorite focal lengths for different types of photography. For architecture and real estate, you're gonna need something wide angle to be able to show those environments. You probably don't need anything much in the way of telephoto. Now, I will have to say right now on my recommended focal lengths, you can absolutely use things that are way outside of what I recommend, but if you're into this type of photography and you want to think about, what do I need to cover the basics? This is what I think you're gonna need. Nature and landscape is a pretty diverse set of things that you're gonna want, but you need a pretty good wide angle and at least a moderate telephoto in there, 14 to 200. This is most of photography in my mind. Travel, event, street, candid, wedding, the 24 to 200 range. That's the default numbers that I give for most people as what size of tool kit do I need as a photographer? If you're working in the studio, doing portrait type work, 50 to 200 millimeters, you just don't need a lot of big range in there. Shooting with sports, I've shot fisheye sports and wide angle sports, but for the most part, you're dealing with short telephotos to fairly long telephotos, depending on the type of sports. And when you get into wildlife work, there never seems to be enough focal length for that and so 200 all the way up to 800 for that and this is where I would want to make sure that I have those lenses if I am shooting that type of work. You can absolutely go outside of these recommendations and start getting a different, more unique look, which is perfectly fine, cause photography is a lot about options, but this is gonna get you covered on the basics of what you would need for different types of photography. I just want to know if, by any chance, is there any adapter for the mirrorless cameras to the tilt and shift lenses? Yes, it depends on which mirrorless camera you have. And which one do you have? An A7 Sony. Sony A7? So yeah, so for instance, Metabones I know is one company that there's a number of companies that make adapters so that you could use Canon, potentially even Nikon ones, I use a Sony camera from time to time with a Metabones adapter and Canon tilt shift lenses and it's a very good combo because you have the electronic viewfinder. It's manual focus, but you're able to zoom in, check focus, and it works really, really well. And so yes, you can get adapters for the Sony A7. For different mirrorless cameras, it will depend. Right now, full frame cameras have a lot of options when it comes to tilt shift lenses, relatively speaking. When it comes to the crop frame, not as many options. The micro four-thirds doesn't have any direct lenses from Olympus or Panasonic, there might be some that you could adapt to it, same thing with Fuji, they don't have any direct tilt shift lenses, there may be some that you could adapt to it, but it gets a little sketchy on how much information is transferred, so it's not as smooth and as easy to operate. Just to clarify, John, in that last slide, you were giving focal lengths and for the full frame camera, is that correct? Yes, that is correct and that is because it is the gold standard and and I don't want to have to get focal lengths in all the different ones, so we just go with full frame and it's up to you to do the math to figure out what that really means for your camera cause you know what your camera is, I don't.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


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!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan