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Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Lesson 16 of 50

Case Study - The Maternal Bond


Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Lesson 16 of 50

Case Study - The Maternal Bond


Lesson Info

Case Study - The Maternal Bond

A while ago, I was in Borneo photographing orangutan for a book I was writing about endangered species and conservation. Now, because I'd never photographed around town before, I decided to spend a few days at a sanctuary to study the animal's behavior and visualize some ideas for images. On my first evening in the camp restaurant, I met a woman who invited me to dinner, and she turned out to be one of the most fascinating women I've ever met. Dr. Francine Iago was in her eighties and had spent her entire adult life caring for and conserving orang utan. During the conversation, she asked me about my work and specifically what I was doing at the sanctuary, and that Porter's under the subject of conservation. One of the surprising things he told me was that while the many sanctuaries in Malaysia and Indonesia have a part to play in saving individual orangutans, they don't really help in conserving this species as a whole. Now, explaining this, she told me the maternal bond between a moth...

er and baby orangutan is the strongest bond in nature, even greater than that of humans on. But for a baby orangutan to thrive it needs love Justus, much as it needs nourishment. The problem is, she said, that when an orphan orangutan arrives at a sanctuary while feeding, it helps it to survive to thrive. It needs the love of a mother, which, because of the circumstances, is always provided by a human surrogate. But as soon as you habituated orang utan to humans, it can never be released back into the wild. After dinner, as I walked back to my room, I thought about this conversation on what kept coming back to me over and over with Doctor Niarchos, statement about mother and baby, that the maternal bond between a mother and baby orangutan is the strongest bond in nature. I thought, What a beautiful sentiment that WAAS would it be, Geiling and engaging story. And so the next day I went into the sanctuary with the sole intent of photographing that story. I didn't pre plan specific shots. I didn't draw compositions on paper. I didn't Presuppose camera settings. Instead, I put my faith in my knowledge and experience of camera technique, which allow me to be mindful to my task, and I let curiosity fight me, and every time I framed an image. I asked myself the question. Does this composition tell the story when the answer came back? Yes. That's when I pressed the shutter. Captured meaningful image, No.

Class Description



  • Compose a shot consistently and effectively
  • Create artistic, powerful images quickly
  • Gain confidence in building narrative
  • Identify what stories you’re drawn to photograph
  • Brainstorm and develop concepts for creative shots
  • Trust your instincts when approaching a subject


CreativeLive is partnering with Chris Weston to offer you his Complete Photography Master Course. This is the second class in the series.

Today, everybody has a camera, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s a photographer. Chris Weston will show you how to do all the other stuff – how to “see” an image, tap into your creativity, and compose a photograph that makes the subject look as good in print as it does in real life.

This class isn’t about cameras, it’s about you – the photographer. It will break free your creative mind, get you thinking about narrative rather than object, and show you how to apply simple artistic skills that turn that next click into a powerful photograph.

Learn how to approach photography like a pro and start creating great pictures straight away. With in-the-field lessons, case studies and powerful tips and techniques, you’ll quickly unleash your creativity and gain confidence in expressing yourself through your camera.


  • Beginner photographers
  • First time DSLR or mirrorless camera users
  • Any photographer who wants to hone their artistic skills


Named one of the world's most influential wildlife photographers, Chris Weston takes a contemporary approach to photography. After launching his career in 2001, the Fujifilm ambassador's images have graced the pages of top publications like BBC, The Times, Outdoor Photography, Practical Photography, and Digital Photography. As a photography educator, Chris has written over 20 photography books, along with leading photo tours and online workshops.


Silvia Garcia

Excellent ! Will see it many times to digest all the messages here. Important info on composition theory. Very well explained. Go to the essence of photography. Thanks, Chris !

a Creativelive Student

Absolute must to watch! Perhaps few times, as is packed with all the information you need to know to make your photography to the next level. I think it is the most comprehensive class on composition. Fantastic!


fabulous course no matter how advanced you are.. LEarned so much from it. I'll watch it again as it contains so much.