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Everything About Composition

Lesson 2 from: Mastering Lightroom Classic & Photoshop Fundamentals

Andrew Kearns

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Lesson Info

2. Everything About Composition

Learn about balance, visual weight, and the rule of odds.

Lesson Info

Everything About Composition

I don't usually invite people in on the first time of meeting them to my bedroom but given the circumstances, welcome. So, this section is going to be about composition and obviously, I can't go out and shoot and showcase compositions, like in the wild. I can't show you what I'm thinking in the moment and how I'm composing certain frames in front of me at this moment. I have to stay inside. So, I want to take you through a few photos here that I'm really keen on. And, I think I can showcase a lot of aspects of an image that I'm looking for when I'm shooting. So, this first photo is at the ocean and it's of the sunset and there's quite a few things going on here that I really like. And, it's also just very simple to showcase a few key points. I want to note how I'm dividing this image into three parts. How I'm center composing the sun and just the colors that are working together. I'm going to hit the "R" key to bring up this crop tab. And, you can see right here that you have this blue...

part, this orange part, and this sea slash this sun part. This is the ocean right here. I don't know if you can really tell. One of the first things I'm turning on when I buy a new camera is this rule of thirds grid. I constantly use this to help compose my images. And, this is exactly why right here. This blue area fills that whole top section. This orange area fills that whole middle section. And, then in this section right here is filled up by the ocean and the sun. With humans it's really true to our nature, to have a focus point. Having some middle part of something to focus on. And, then to go further into that you have that sun center composed. So, when you look at it vertically this way, you have this section on the left, this section on the right, and this center section where the sun is just directly in center. So, there's a lot pulling you in to a focal point. That was how I was seeing that image. I like seeing it split up in those three parts. It's very simple. There's really not much to it, but I make so many of my images and my compositions just referencing that rule of thirds line within my camera. And, this is a perfect example of exactly that. There's also some really nice colors working together here. I'm not going to go too into that. That'll be the next section when we talk about contrast and colors, but that's also a great thing that's going for this image. So, next image, this photo I shot back in 2016. It's a place called Monroe Point. And, it's honestly one of my favorite images of all time. And, I just want to go through and break it down. Like, what I'm seeing in it. We're going to open up that crop panel again and bring up that rule of thirds grid. And, you can kind of see where stuff is aligning already. First off, the foreground and background elements are working very well here. I'm not a big fan of having stuff obstructing the lens like that as foreground. That's just never been my style, but I like this foreground on the left side of this image here, It gives a sense of depth. So you have this, that's close to you. You have this mid-range area where my friend Carl is, and you have this trail leading into him and you have this far off distance. There's a really good display of foreground, middle ground, and then far off distance. And, you have this whole, like all this in between too. Between middle ground and far off distance. There's a lot of depth to this image, which is is really nice to have in an image. A very common thing I'm doing, and pretty much most of the photographs I take, is that center composition. So, my buddy, Carl, I'll open up that crop panel to see that rule of thirds is dead center on that vertical line. He doesn't have to be center in the horizontal line. I mean, you could crop it like that. And in fact, this is an older edit. There are definitely some changes I would make. He's just centered in on that composition vertically. So, that's just always been very trademark my style. I'll work to compose my images to have my subject center framed. Because number one, center framing is just going to make it a little easier to focus in on the subject that you're trying to showcase. But also, I've just always been attracted to a center frame subject. I've never really been a big fan of off to the left or right. Unless it works for the image in particular. That's kind of my thoughts there on center composition, it's really not complex. There's really not much to it other than it looked nice. Also, in this image, there's very subtle leading lines. It's definitely a bit harder in nature for me to capture leading lines because it's nature. It's not like constructive buildings that have very straight right angles that lead into a subject. It's a little harder to find them. I notice in nature, they're always seemingly subtle. This one has quite a bit going on even though they're subtle. You have this long ridge right here going down into Carl. You kind have this section, too, going into him and obviously the trail, you have this pointing up to him from the bottom of the ridge line. And, then you have this leading line right here. It's kind of a leading line. I don't know if you want to call it that. You have the mountains back here that I should have edited a little bit better to bring them out a little bit, but keep them subtle to have even more of a leading line just following it down right here into that. Because I think I kind of edited that out back in the day. Again, this is an older edit. Maybe I'll throw a new edit on it soon and enunciate that a little more if we can and post. Now let's look at the composition aspects of this photo. Going to open up that rule of thirds again. And, if you remember on the sunset photo how I was describing it in parts both vertically and horizontally, this one showcases it a lot more and there's a lot going on. So, I'm just going to break it down for you. Let's focus on going left to right first. You have this foreground section that's on the left side. You have more of this middle ground section with Carl in the center, in the middle. And then on the right side you have it in very far distance. You have the background as you might call it. And, now looking at it going bottom to top. You have this bottom section where there's quite a bit of foreground and you have this other section right here, in the middle, where you have Carl and some more mid-range stuff. And, you also have some distance there. And, I mean, this top section is more just white abyss but it doesn't have to be a hundred percent perfect. And again, going back to those mountains I kind of edited out there. If I would've kept them in a bit more, I could've cropped down just like this and, boom, you have more like you're going to have that foreground that middle ground and that background section. And then, this will be filled in a little more by mountains versus having this much empty space. You have a little less empty space and more focus in on the subject. But then when I do that, I think of how much I really like that prominence of that ridge line right here And even adding in more foreground that leads into Carl. So, that's why I chose to keep it cropped up like that. That's my mentality behind that at least. But looking back at that grid again, you can see how I'm segmenting out these images. I'll show you what I mean in this next photo right here. This is a photo of my friend, John at Lake Winachi. I'm not going to go too in depth with it but you can see if I have this rule of thirds grid up, like if you ever used a word document and you have those page margins, if you set those page margins to like a half inch on each side, or whatever standard MLA format is, you're going to have the same distance from the words to the edge of the page on each side. And, that's honestly how I think a lot about my compositions and I think this one showcases it very well. Three sections. You have John in the foreground here. You have John in a little bit of that mid ground and then you have the distance. There's a Lake Winachi island out there that's just beyond the subject in the photo. So, there's a lot going on here too. That's working well. I think I could probably crop it down a little more. Yeah, I like that versus that, a big fan of that closer end crop. But, really I'm just going to show you how I'm using this grid to measure stuff out. And, this is what I'm thinking about when I'm looking at it in the camera. So, John's head right here to this edge of the island is the same as his head from here to that edge of the island and it's the same distance from this margin point to that margin point. That little gap right there. If you come down here, you have this that's about the same. This white snow line here reaching about the same distance halfway between these margin lines. Obviously, it's nature and there's going to be a lot of perfect imperfections there where it's not going to line up perfectly, but that's fine. I'm not going for perfection here and I'm not trying to get exactly on every single line and my margin's a hundred percent perfect. That's just not going to happen in nature but you can control it a lot more with your subject. So, from here to here, that's about the same distance as from here to here. Another way to look at this, too, is if you look at these grids, like this whole grid is basically a mirror image of this grid and this grid right here, same thing. A mirror image of that grid and this grid right here, same thing, mirror image to that grid. It has about the same amount of stuff going on, on the left side and the right side, which is just very satisfying to see to the eye. The eye really liked those nice symmetrical patterns. When you have opportunities like this it's really nice to use that grid to measure it out and make sure you're nailing all that in line to get a nice symmetrical pattern. This last photo I'm going to talk about here is when I shot at the first draw workshop I did. There's a lot going on in this image that I'm really stoked about. And, like all the other ones, I'm just going to walk you through it. You can see how it's being segmented here with the grid. You have the foreground, mid ground and you have the sky right here. And then, right in the center is all the subjects there. You have land, subjects, sea. It's all being split up into sections there. And, if you look at my margin lines, for the most part, with the people it's, Sonora is kind of evening out amongst those lines. You have a little bit of her right there. A little bit of her right there. Mason obviously is cut off there. But, same thing with Nathaniel, little bit right there, a little bit right there. It's not a hundred percent perfect because, again, if I was trying to get it a hundred percent perfect I would never get anything done. But, it's getting close to there. I'm getting a nice average and that's mostly what I'm looking for when I'm shooting and editing. And, just that nice average that's pleasing to the eye as you can be. Again, looking at these grid boxes, you have this section, it's almost mirrored on this side. Obviously, there's land and then there's sea, but these islands are essentially mirrored and symmetrical right there. That is a very nice little touch to it. That's really what I'm thinking about here. As I was taking this image I was really enjoying shooting these three people and trying to get a nice center composition like that. And, that kind of brings me to my last main point is how I try to work with the rule of odds all the time when I'm shooting. As I was saying throughout this, human nature, we're just really keen on having a center focal point, like a center subject. And, so, with an even number of objects, you know with four fingers, there's not really a center. There's one, two, three, four, and just not a definite center here. But if you do three, you have one, two and then three like dead center right there. It's just something easier to focus on. And it's is actually a, I mean rule in photography called the rule of odds. So, if you're looking at this image with the rule of odds, you have three subjects, you have Sonora, Nathaniel and then Mason dead center because you have that definite center there. And, you could even go a step further acknowledging the whole image. You have five subjects of focus now. You have this section with the trees, this section with the trees, and then person, person, and then center focal point. That was really what I was looking at in this composition. And, the thing is too, when I shot this image, it there was a little more to it. There was a little extra to the composition that I didn't want to include. So, a lot of times I will come in and just fix my compositions and crop. Obviously, I try to get it as close as I can when shooting and I have the general idea of what I'm looking for in my compositions. Like I said, measuring with those lines and everything. But, at the end of the day, if I botch it, I can do a lot of post work with the transform tool with a cropping tool. And, one last thing too, in this image is there's kind of a nice natural dark to light gradient going on. If you zoom out, you can kind of see it a bit more because you're not focused so much on the subjects. But, you have this dark area and it just naturally graduates to that Northeast corner to light. That's very satisfying to see in images. And, I mean, that was very similar to that first sunset photo when it went from not light blue but like lighter blue to deeper orange, to dark ocean. That gradient is such a nice thing to see and so pleasing to the human eye. So yeah, that's pretty much what I'm looking at when I'm composing images when I'm creating them and, yeah, that's kind of how I see it to reflect back on that. Just make sure you're considering your rule of thirds grid within your camera to look at margins to separate your images into those vertical and horizontal segments. Like I said, I'm very fond of center compositions. It really fits the style that I explained here and segmenting your images into those thirds. Obviously, one of the most common tips people give is having that foreground element in your photo. So, going back to that Monroe Point photo, I think that's a very good display of it and even same with this photo too, of all three of them running. You have that little bit of beach right there and that's a nice little foreground element to add to lead you into the ever expanding horizon beyond. And then, there's the aspect of framing your subjects within the environment. Like I framed them between those two islands or the island and the tree line. It just creates a nice little center focus point to really compliment the last thing, the rule of odds. Having an odd number of subjects or focal points instead of having an even number so you can get that definite middle. So with that, let's get to the next section where we're going to talk a little bit on color and contrast. Contrast is so much more than that slider at the top of Light Room. There's a lot more thought that I put into it. So, see you in the next section. Probably not going to be in my room but thank you for coming by. Now get out of my room.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Workshop PDF
View Andrew's Selects
Sonora Edit - Before and After
Mountains Edit - Before and After
Edit 01 - Before and After
Edit 02 - Before and After
Edit 03 - Before and After

Ratings and Reviews

Ratul Dutta

This class is really like a good investment. It's gonna help you step by step and you can come back to it multiple times when you need to. Been watching Andrew Kearns on YouTube since 2018. Massive fan of his editing style. I wanted this class as soon as I saw the discount rate. Being a student from a different country, I probably wouldn't have been able to afford it at it's original price. This workshop goes in real depth towards the "approach" of editing a photo. I learnt a tonne of cool stuff. So many new things. Subtle yet so powerful.

Mack Woodruff

Incredibly Eye Opening This workshop truly opened up a whole new world of editing techniques that I didn't fully realize existed. I'd recommend this workshop for anyone who has a basic understanding of LR and PS already and are hoping to take it to new levels. I will keep coming back to it for a long time!

Veronica Ettedgui

Very very nice!!

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