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Image Composition for Street Photographers

Lesson 6 of 9

Think Differently

 

Image Composition for Street Photographers

Lesson 6 of 9

Think Differently

 

Lesson Info

Think Differently

Another common... not mistake, but just a thing that people do very often in photography when they're getting started is they think that this is their perspective of the world. But just because this is your default, this height and angle of the world is your default and it's the way the world's kind of built around us, there's so many different angles you can take. In New York, when I'm shooting in the rain I like to get really, really low, almost on the ground. I get a lot of strange looks from strange people. They're like, what is he doing he doing in this puddle? But it really changes your perspective and it forces the viewer to see things from a completely different angle that they might never have considered. It also allows the world to layer in very different ways, as you'll see when I go to the next frame. I also want you guys to think about lines and be conscious of the journey that your eye takes around a composition. So when you're looking at a well-composed photograph, what'...

s the first thing you notice? What's the last thing you notice? How does your eye move through that composition and how can you learn by looking at other people's work and understanding how your eyes move around, and how can you incorporate that into having people look at your work and get out of your work what you want them to get out of it? If there's something I wanna draw attention to, I can use leading lines to point into that thing. Or I can make sure that however I balance my composition, that the main subject is always gonna be the main subject and not a secondary subject. So position things very consciously, I think that's important. So here's an example of getting really low for a shot, and even focusing in a spot that isn't the obvious. So when you front focus, meaning I'm focusing before the subjects, I'd call this the subject. When you're focusing in front of it, it picks up drops that are in the foreground as opposed to around him. So if I was focused on him, you wouldn't see any of these drops. You'd see whatever was going on around him. But I've been doing this kinda technique to kinda bring out the drops in front. And also shooting, one of my techniques for shooting in the rain is always having a backlight so that light is coming through the drops, otherwise you don't really see anything. So if you notice, a lot of my rain shots have a lot of backlighting. So there's like a bus or something that's pointing its headlights directly at me, and that picks up every little drop. Again, this is all in the vein of think differently, right? So this is what I would call forced perspective. And in the same way where I called it a negative, where you're forcing someone's perspective if you have a shot that's off kilter, you can also use forced perspective as a positive. This is an image that is kind of abstract and watercolor painterly, but if you flip your head over you can kinda see, I should have included it flipped over too, but it's an interesting way to come up with a completely different image on a rainy day. And I shot this, I'm just pointing at the ground kind of like, as opposed to just pointing straight up I'm pointing right at their feet. And then when I post process it, I just flip it over and it's really cool, even though I know this is an illusion it really still tricks me, it's really funny. Tricking myself. So again, I love shooting in the rain, I think it makes everything a little more fun and a little more interesting. This, to me, is an example of including, again, including the foreground frame to really focus in on the subject. If I run up there and I get him in the bus, I don't know if it's the same pic, it doesn't work the same way it does with this sweeping kind of curve in it. And there's something about the fan blowing towards him and his hand up that kinda create this line that strikes through the whole image. Yeah, changing your perspective on a scene by any means, this is shot out of a plane window over Yellowstone, this is called the Grand Prismatic Spring. It's one of the largest hot springs in the world. Not the largest, but one of them. This composition is, when you're on the ground you would have no idea about this composition. So taking extra steps, in this case taking an extra plane, can really change what perspective you think is even possible at a location. And I'm gonna show you what that looks like in New York as well. This is a shot, again, from a helicopter. This is on New Year's Eve a few years ago. If you look in the street, you can see that they're completely packed with people. And, again, this is a color, a tonality, an architectural approach, and a composition of New York that you just don't get from your common perspective. So pointing straight down or straight up, or getting low or shooting high, can really change, entirely, what's possible to create, what it is possible to create. Leading lines are probably the most classic compositional element. To me, this is a project I did for Manfrotto out in Joshua Tree. And I really wanted to shoot astro, but the clouds were a little messing up my plans. But we rented a car and I was like, I chose this road because it was kinda undulating, going up and down, I thought that created a really interesting leading line. And then we emphasized that leading line by doing a long exposure and tracing more lines in by driving a car up and down. So this really kinda like, to me, converges and it points your eyes straight up into the heavens and makes for a really interesting scene. Even through it's not symmetrical. And again, I think that even this little touch of this plane going by helps counterbalance the brightness of the right side of the image. Even though it's subtle, it doesn't have to be much. Even the bush on the left is puling the eye back towards the left a little bit. So just remember that there's no rules, really. It's just guidelines. It's good to know those guidelines so you can push against them. And it's really, the exciting thing about that is that, that's what makes your work unique, is what rules or what guidelines you decide to break, what you decide to push for and what you decide to leave out. Those decisions, those little tiny decisions you make, they all add up into your personal style. And I think that any photographer will tell you that the most important thing, if you want to do this for a living, or get paid to take people's pictures, or just wanna make beautiful pictures, having a unique sense of style is gonna get you further than anything. People will hire you because you are the person that does that thing, as opposed to somebody that just like has no style or no identifiable brand. I think it's really important to think about what set of rules you're gonna stick to for your own work. Innovate and create your own sense of composition, I think that's really important. This, again, I shot last week. Just having fun out in the Scottish highlands with Sony. And again, not a symmetrical frame but I think a well-balanced frame, interesting colors, leading lines, all the different elements. Again, getting really low to the ground as opposed to shooting just from a proper perspective. Again, the iPhone sketchbook, this is absolutely how I learned and programmed into myself an innate sense of balance was just by, every single day looking around the world and being like, how would I balance this? How would I balance that? And then actually doing it. And just using my phone, you know, no pressure on myself, and just having fun with it. And if you see, all these little frames? There's some sense of balance in each and every one of them. And limiting myself to a three two frame and a certain set of rules, you can see how these are all kinda united in the same style, and they all have a sense of balance. And you can find that stuff on Secret Street if you want to dive in a little bit deeper. But, again, thank you for your time, and I'm excited to discuss this with you guys. So if you have any questions, or you want clarification on anything, now's the time and that would be awesome. Great, well thank you so much. I have one question and then I know we have just a little bit of time to get shooting as well. So this one was from Jamie, who asked where do you set the camera when you're taking some of those reflection images so that you're actually not in the reflection? How do you approach that, or the mirrors, or all of that? I have no reflection. (laughter) I'm just off to the side. So that's, again, trial and error. You only have to be offset enough to not be in the frame. A great way to get your subject to find you in the frame, it's kinda like on a truck, where it says "if you can't see me, I can't see you" on the back of a truck, I don't know if that's a valid reference, but I know that that's a thing. So I tell my subjects, whether it's in a window or I'm doing one of those layered compositions, or it's just a straight up mirror, I just say, "Look at my camera but in the mirror." And they're like, "Oh, oh yeah, there you are!" And then we're making eye contact again. So that's the way that I get my subject to be able to find me in the mirror, I'm like just find me in the mirror, if you can see me that means I can see you. And they see something completely different in the mirror, they see me. But from my perspective I see them. And I'm usually like, if the mirror, I'll show you guys in a minute, but, if the mirror's like straight here I'd be in it, and then if I move over here I'm not in it, and then I just put them wherever, whatever's that 90 degree angle. So I imagine that you're kind of constantly studying your surroundings, does it go beyond that and into like, are you studying photographer's work and art and are you watching TV and movies and like, Definitely. looking at the, (laughs) Yeah, that's a great question, actually. My work is very inspired by cinema. I'm actually watching a series right now, Man in the High Castle, and the cinematography in that is, I'm watching it on my phone because I have so many plane rides, and I've been screenshotting scenes from that. Because I'm like, how did they balance the, it's like so well done! It happens to me mostly in cinemas. Cinemas? In films. (laughter) In the cinema. Mostly when I'm watching film, because it's a photographic art. I'm like oh, that's such a brilliant shot. When I'm looking at art in general, I don't know if I think about it as much as I do as when I'm watching film. But definitely from other photographers, too. That's why I love Instagram, it's this incredible feedback loop. If I look at a hundred images a day, that's a whole education right there. And then I get to incorporate everything I've learned and then spit something back out into the ecosystem and get immediate feedback. And just repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, and you do that for five years, you're gonna find a degree of deep comprehension. Yeah, good question, though. I think film is where I see the most of it. Where I really freak out about it.

Class Description

When it comes to image composition, street photography poses unique challenges. There are usually several things going on at once, and you never know when something or somebody will jump into the frame when you least expect it. Renowned street photographer Dave Krugman will show you to take control of your images and create a well-constructed composition on the fly.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the basic rules of taking photos on the streets.
  • Create balanced and well-proportioned compositions.
  • Use objects and other elements from the streets to frame and communicate your story.

If you want to become a great street photographer, this class will help you embrace the unexpected and have fun with the unpredictable nature of this liberating art form.

Reviews

Margaret Lovell
 

I enjoyed the class. I'm trying to get better with my street photography skills, and this course gave me a few things to think about. I appreciate that Dave added before and after photos for his lessons.