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Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Lesson 31 of 50

Seeing The Elements of Design

Chris Weston

Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Chris Weston

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Lesson Info

31. Seeing The Elements of Design


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Your 10,001st Photograph Duration:03:24
2 Camera Gear Duration:03:03
4 Be a Storyteller Duration:03:09
7 Photograph What You Love Duration:02:00
9 Have an Opinion Duration:01:46
10 See With a Child’s Eyes Duration:02:34
11 Tell Your Story Duration:08:46
12 Find a Needle in the Haystack Duration:01:38
16 Case Study - The Maternal Bond Duration:02:42
18 Relevance Duration:01:06
19 #1 Reason Photographs Fail Duration:02:57
20 Getting Rid of Clutter Duration:03:59
21 Post Capture Cropping Duration:02:04
22 The Elements of Design Duration:02:31
23 Elements of Design Duration:01:38
24 Elements of Design - Shape Duration:02:21
25 Case Study - Shape Duration:02:11
26 Elements of Design - Color Duration:01:55
27 Case Study - Color Duration:01:50
28 Color in Camera Duration:01:42
29 Pattern Duration:01:54
30 Texture Duration:02:24
31 Seeing The Elements of Design Duration:08:52
32 Gestalt Theory Duration:05:10
33 Case Study - Cove Duration:01:36
34 Case Study - Hat Duration:02:09
35 Light and Contrast Duration:01:54
36 Light and Form Duration:01:26
37 Light and Depth Duration:03:48
38 Perspective Duration:02:28
39 Lenses and Perspective Duration:02:47
40 Rule of Thirds Duration:02:48
41 Centre of Frame Duration:01:36
44 The Horizon Line Duration:02:52
46 Other Lines Duration:04:57
48 Negative Space Duration:02:29
50 Training the Mind Duration:04:26

Lesson Info

Seeing The Elements of Design

Have you ever wondered why road signs are designed the way they are? Originally, road signs used all capitals, but from a distance, a word written in full caps is indiscernible. So when the new superfast highways and motorways were built, it was important drivers could read signs more quickly. And so the lettering was changed, a mixture of upper and lower case. Now, because this is how we see words most of the time. For example, in books and newsprint and subtitles, etcetera our brain is able to recognize the pattern of the word, which means we get the information from the sign much more quickly. Pattern recognition is how our brain makes sense of the exabytes of data, our eyes taking every second on To explain why this is important to your photography. I'm on my way to the Allen Institute in Seattle. So why is it that you can read text when the letters in the middle are jumbled up, but you've got the right letters at the ends On a lot of that comes from the fact that we have our brain...

s through both our development and through our evolutionary history. We set up expectations of what we are going to encounter in our environment and in our world. So when we are looking at a landscape in an environment evolutionarily, we aren't looking for kind of a look at the sun and and how it's hitting all of the grasses or what have you evolutionarily? Those weren't the salient features. Can artists be working on a subconscious level and seeing things that are kind of potentially less artistic than if they're kind of looking at it? Very mindfully is what you're asking, and I think there's it's possible that that that's the case that that they can kind of, you know, kind of separate some of the meaning from the patterns in a way that that allows them to kind of function on a different on a different level. I think there's kind of different ways to get about that right, and some of it is is really trying to kind of, uh, pullup heart kind of semantic meaning or kind of how things mean in our cultural in our context right now, and just let kind of light be light. That's that's difficult for us to do, especially when we're kind of busy and We're trying to do lots of things at once and often involves that kind of stepping back and kind of clear in your mind and kind of trying Teoh actively remove some of those layers of meaning and to really think about kind of the situation rather than what it physically is. And so I do think that that can lead towards that type of more creative vision and even as a when not in the Creator from the creative side but from the viewing side is being able to, um, not focused so much on exactly what is it that's being represented? But how are these pieces playing with each other? And how were they complimenting or building off of each other? Or, you know, where is the dissonance between the colors or or the shading? And visually, you can start to pull those out and you could even kind of play with them and deconstruct them in ways that could become more creative. And that's part of the challenge in creativity is to kind of find that balance of breaking things apart without losing the whole, but by a kind of amplifying different features. Is it possible to see things more creatively by being more mindful of the situation. I think that's absolutely true. I think the the more that as a viewer, I feel that I understand where I would be in that space. I feel like that's where you feel embodied in that scene. Where is if I feel like I could be seeing this on a television than that distance can be? You can feel that distance right, But when you can remove that distance so that I I see exactly how I fit into this scene or into this location, I think that's where you have a much more emotional connection with that subject. Are there techniques that weaken that we can use when we're creating images to kind of notice the's patterns that are underlying these images? And I believe there aren't when we're looking at something, removing some of the semantic filters that we apply to it on and really try and see things as those elemental pieces looking at? What is it that I'm seeing? Where do these things fit? And maybe these angles look weird, But then when you realize that it's because therefore shout shortened or what have you But if I just really focused on what I'm looking at, that kind of mindfulness of forget about what I'm thinking. Forget about what I'm trying Teoh represent are trying to say with this image. But really, what is it that's in front of me? I think a lot of general mindfulness techniques are useful as well. Of really kind of clearing are clearing one's mind of other ideas and the other thoughts and really just kind of being present in that moment on letting kind of what's there speak for itself. Now, most of the time, this ability to instantly take lots of tiny details and turn them into a single recognizable pattern help sister now the gate life. But when you're out photographing, it works against you. You're composing images that tell stories. To do that, you have to see beneath the surface. You have to go deeper and take your audience beyond what the mind interprets on back to what the eyes actually see. And that means learning to turn off the filters in your brain. You have to stop seeing a tree and start seeing the elements that form that tree lines, shape, colors, patterns and textures, the building blocks of all good photographs. Learning to see without these filters is a skill, and it takes practice now, a technique I've used in the past to get me started on begin honing my ability is something called image deconstruction. This involves taking an image. It could be a photograph, but equally it might be a painting or drawing and taking it apart piece by piece until you get to its constituent parts and to show you how it works. I'm going to do just that with this image. This photograph contains all five of the elements of design. Some are explicit, some are implied. Some are overt. Others are more subtle. First of all, there's the line formed between the ground and the dark beyond. Next we see free explicit circles formed by the rotating fire sticks. Then there are the implied triangles, one each in the three dances and another form between the three dances. Color is a very strong component. Redd's a predominant contrast against the dark blue sky and complemented by the green grass. There is explicit pattern in the design of the robes in the tattooed arm of one of the dancers as well as an implied pattern in the positioning of the dancers within the square frame. And finally, there's texture in the ground the dancers air standing on. So now we've deconstructed the image. Let's consider the visual impact of the individual elements. Texture is not part of the story here on day, by including only an area of ground sufficient not to cut off, the dancer's feet is rolling. The frame has been minimised. The square format, together with the central positioning of the dancers, focuses your attention on the dances. There is no space or ground for the eye to wander into now. In an earlier lesson, I talked about how circles contain what's inside them. Here. The three circles holds the action, the hands turning the fire sticks, which draws your attention to the detail of the dance. The individual triangles formed by each dancer suggest solidity and strength. There's no way that any of these guys is going to topple over, while the larger triangle form between all three dancers creates a visual energy that keeps your I'm moving from one to the next and from the center of each circle to the next, the red of the robes represents the color of fire, which creates a continuity. Andi adds to the sense of danger. So through this process of deconstruction, you can see that what on first glance appears to be a simple image is instead, a complex amalgamation of design. Elements, all of which are working on the psychological level toe evoke an emotional response. Now you can practice deconstruction pretty much anywhere, for example, while waiting for train or going for a walk, or by pausing an image on your TV on, then simply looking at the scene on isolating the elements that make up that scene. And of course, the more you practice, the more your ability and composition will become second nature 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.


Edmund Cheung

Perhaps the style of presentation and simple, short, and direct messaging does not "jive" with some; but others may really love this. Yes the production of each episode is stylized and perhaps a bit formal (like a TV Show?), but there is something to be said about it. Perhaps this is not meant for professional photographers? I think of myself as decent amateur / high level photographer. I found lots of great nuggets of wisdom and inspiration from this. Especially when I an in a rut for creativity. Yes I have heard all these concepts and ideas before. BUT it is always great to hear and see a different way of presentation and voice. Please do NOT take the naysayer reviews as the end all. You should judge for yourself and watch a few episodes. If the style and content click for you, I would highly recommend this course.

Kai Atherton

While I am perhaps more advanced in my photography then this course. It is always great to be able to go back to fundamentals and remind ourselves of the basic principles, and even camera function. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and Chris's other. It is a great motivational jumpstart when lacking fresh creative idea's.

Abdullah Alahmari

Thanks a lot to mr. Chris Weston This course is great and It is a 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 course for me. Beside the other course ( mastering the art of photography ) both courses are Complementing to each other and highly recommended.