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Masters of Photography

Lesson 7 of 34


Joel Meyerowitz

Masters of Photography

Joel Meyerowitz

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Lesson Info

7. Composition

Lesson Info


(upbeat music) Most of the time, the tendency of photographers is to put something in the middle of the frame. It's easy that way right? It's like shooting an arrow into the target (choo). I certainly did that, I did it a lot when I was a young photographer because I wanted to get it, I wanted to capture the moment, or the look, or the gesture, the expression, the beauty, all of that. And pictures have a tendency to look like that you know? It's an attractive woman in this case and I'm confronting her on the street, and she's sorta standing me off, and we have a little bit of a give and take together, but she's right in the middle of the frame and it's not difficult to put something in the middle of the frame. That in fact is the easiest way of making a photograph. But I learned cause it doesn't come right away. I learned that you can spread that energy out all over the frame, because if you make it interesting enough, somebody will pick it up and they will read all over the frame; t...

hey'll look from the center to the upper corner, and down to the side, and across to over there. They will follow the tune that you're playing inside the photograph, so you can make pictures that are more complex. For example, a picture like this. A picture like this came probably 10 years after I began. I was courageous enough at that point and I was connected enough to my instrument to be able to disperse the energy out from the center, and use many layered images to make the picture. There's the tiger in the window, there's the blind guy with his dog, there are four or five women whose feet are lined up in the picture doing this, there's a guy with a briefcase entering the sunlight from a shadowed area, and then there's the sky, and the flags, and the buildings. I was able to embrace everything on the street to try to describe the overall sensation of what it was to be alive in on the streets of midtown Manhattan. So it took time for me to evolve, to get to a place where my appetite was bigger, where my ideas about photography because this is an important thing to consider: photography looks like pictures but it's really ideas, and they're your ideas, and the ideas that you have are unique to you alone, and only you can help us to see them because you figured out technically, emotionally, psychologically, physically, all these ways of being in the right place at the right time to make an interesting picture out of nothing, and nothing in this case is the everything of everyday life. Ordinary life is constantly charging the frame and you with new possibilities. So how do you get there? It's really up to you. I can tell you that these things are possible but you have to go out and do the work yourself, and you bring that work back and we can talk about it, or communicate in some way, and help you get closer, and closer to the things that you really care about. And this is true about the, the techniques of photography too. Well I don't really care much about the technical side of photography. I know how to use a camera, I know how to make the right exposures, I know how to choose the lens that I like to work with and I think that's an important thing for all of you to consider too; what's your lens? What do you see? Do you see the world like this? That's a telephoto. Do you see the world like this? That's a wide angle. What's your personality like? Do you wanna compress and flatten everything? Use a telephoto. Do you wanna bring things far away, near? Use a telephoto. But if you wanna plunge into the stream of the street, if you wanna swim in there and be like a fish moving through the crowd, you need a lens that matches your vision. So what is our vision? The truth is that we, this human creature that we are, if I look straight ahead right at you now, I can feel my fingers wiggling right to here. Without moving my eyes I can see this motion here so that's 180 degrees, but I can't look at it unless I turn my head. So what do we see normally? Our vision is about 70 degrees. A 35 millimeter lens is 70 degrees. So, if you're interested in photographing the world around you as you enter it and as you perceive it, use a 35 millimeter lens and forget about that zoom, and in and out all the time. A 35 millimeter lens is your identity, it's the scope of the thing that you are interested in. So my, my most important technical advice to you is find the lens that suits your personality, and you may have more than one side to your personality so maybe there is a telephoto in your future, but find something and stick with it. Don't keep on changing the lens all day long. I think sticking with one prime lens is a test of your discipline. It means you've got to make the picture by going closer or further away. You've gotta stay alive to the meanings and possibilities of the world in front of you, and what they're offering you, so trust me on this; I'm serious about it. You pick a lens that feels right to you or in fact if a lens you're using makes you feel frustrated, like if you're using a 50 let's say, which is what happened to me when I was a young photographer. I was given a 50 on a camera I borrowed, I couldn't stand it! After a week I felt so frustrated, I said I gotta get something bigger and I went and bought a 35 millimeter lens and my life changed, as if everything I was seeing I was finally getting on the film. So, technique is really simple and in today's time, the other technique you need is Photoshop and that's easy to learn. You do it by experimentation and it will come clear to you, and you'll be able to make your pictures just as if you had a darkroom; you've got a virtual darkroom in Photoshop.

Class Description

Internationally renowned and award winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz is known for his iconic images that encompass decades of capturing all genres of photographs. Masters of Photography is bringing Joel’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his vast career.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find a subject to photograph
  • How to improve your compositional skills
  • How to determine correct lighting
  • How to print your images and also create a photo book

Walk with Joel through picturesque Tuscany, bustling Siena and the vibrant streets of New York as he shows you how he creates his photographs. He will shares ideas, experiences, and his secrets on how to make great images. Joel will also suggest ideas for projects to try yourself. You can use any device from camera phone to DSLR, but in the end it’s all about you and your photography.



I have an all access pass and thought oh no, I have to pay for this one? I bit the bullet and I am so glad I did. Joel has a great deal of wisdom and experience because of his age. BUT, despite his age, he exudes a fountain of enthusiasm, playfulness, curiousity and constant wonder surrounding his subjects. He opened within me the possibilities of exploring different photographic subjects and allowing myself to experience the fun in pursuit of those subjects. I love the way he shows how someone can take the same ho hum scene, but then look around for a different point of view. He is indeed a Master and I thank Joel for the class.


This is a absulutely fantastic class. Joel Meyerowitz takes you on an journey of little but important advices. In each short video you got some jewels to improve your approach, your view and your art. I own a lot of classes here on CL, but this one is one of my favourits! Gentle and human. Thank you Joel Meyerowitz, you helped me a lot on my journey to develop my photography.

Cosmin Dolha

What do you do after you learn all the mechanics, the technical stuff, exposure triangle, lights, where do you start? Because I am starting, now! You will find encouragement and guidance, and real applicable wisdom. If you are new to photography as I am, this course will point you in the right direction. What a treasure! Thank you CreativeLive for this and thank you Joel Meyerowitz for taking such a gentle approach to such a complicated subject, that is photography.