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Masters of Photography

Lesson 21 of 25


Steve McCurry

Masters of Photography

Steve McCurry

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Lesson Info

21. Composition


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Meet Your Master Duration:00:47
2 The Early Years Duration:08:30
3 Going To War Duration:08:03
4 Influences: Cartier-Bresson Duration:08:29
5 Other Influences Duration:08:06
6 Tell A Story Duration:12:04
7 Conflict Zones Duration:14:13
8 Finding Subjects And Stories Duration:13:16
9 Choosing The Light Duration:12:55
15 Portraiture - 9 Key Tips Duration:08:27
17 Photographing Children Duration:12:37
18 The Afghan Girl Duration:05:59
19 Using Juxtaposition Duration:06:37
20 Landscape Duration:10:14
21 Composition Duration:06:52
22 Cityscapes Duration:08:20
23 Shoot In All Weather Duration:06:39
25 Making Pictures For A Living Duration:02:20

Lesson Info


(soothing music plays) A lot has been written about composition. And a lot has been written about my composition. But I have to tell you that I think you should be free of any rules or any kind of guidelines and just find your own way. I think that rules are meant to be broken. Great pictures are ambiguous. Sometimes pictures have a sense of mystery. Sometimes it's good to be thrown off balance. Sometimes it's good to be surprised. And the unexpected is always wonderful. But I think in terms of composition, you shouldn't feel encumbered to photograph this way or that way. I think you should experiment. I think through trial and error you will find your own way, your own signature style. But there's no right way in terms of composition. I think it's important to study composition. I think it's important to look at how some of the great masters in photography are painting how they solve problems of composition. But I think when you're out actually shooting you should be completely focu...

sed. If you're thinking too much about the rules of composition it's taking your mind off of the picture. Sometimes great pictures don't rely on composition. They rely on content and a great story. (soothing music plays) So it's important to remember that when you're composing a picture, sometimes if things aren't quite right, you need to move. Maybe the composition will become more clear, more balanced if you just move around your subject. And sometimes the picture's on the other side of where you're actually standing at the moment. So it's important to look at the situation, your subject, in lots of different angles and maybe you'll find that rather than have the subject move, you move. This is a picture of fishermen in Sri Lanka off the southwest coast, a place called Weligama. Which was sort of fascinating to me was this very unique way of fishing on these sort of very narrow poles. It's something which they've been doing for centuries but this practice is really kind of coming to an end with the modern world we live in. But I knew that this was gonna be an important picture because it's such a unique way of fishing. I thought the only way I could really do it properly was to actually get into the water with them and I was sort of standing on one of these rocks near the beach. And I went there maybe four different occasions. I went there a few mornings, I went there a few afternoons, trying to find the right light the right situation. But what I figured out quickly was to get the best picture, I actually needed to move into the water. And the best place in the water was kinda perched on this rock. The view from the beach wasn't very good. And I realized that the best angle was from this rock. Which was a bit precarious because as the waves came in the water would pick me up and suddenly drop me back down. Hopefully I would be back on this rock. But I think what I really learned from this picture was that I really had to move around, the situation, I had to really move around these fishermen. And the best angle really wasn't on the beach, but it was inside the water perched on this rock. (soothing music plays) One of the most fascinating situations I've ever seen is this ship breaking industry. This picture's from the coast of Pakistan near Karachi. And what they do is they haul these enormous great ships up on the beach. And then they set about cutting them apart for scrap metal. And in this particular ship breaking yard I visited, there must have been 20 or 30 of these huge ships ready to be cut apart. So what I thought as I was walking up and down the beach I found this one man who was kind of looking out into the scene. And so you had this enormous ship and this tiny little man, which I thought was a nice sense of scale. But it was really surreal how these ships were lined up on the beach. It was like a graveyard for these freighters and tankers and large ships. And this is a industry which continues til today. They have large ship breaking yards in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and other parts of the world. I made this photograph about two o'clock in the afternoon when the sun was still fairly bright. But I kind of shot it from the shadows. Which I thought was a much more pleasing way to approach it. Literally any time of the day is perfectly fine to photograph, it just depends on how you use the light. And in this case, I got into the shadow area to block that direct sunlight and photograph this very small figure in front juxtapose with this enormous ships in the background. (music plays) So I think you'll find your own style and your own sense of composition by practice, by hard work, by looking at your scene from different angles. But it will take a lot of practice and this is really the ultimate key to success, is to be out working, photographing, practice. And eventually things will come together in a really wonderful way.

Class Description

Steve McCurry has been one of the most important voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years. Masters of Photography is bringing Steve’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his iconic career. Steve will teach how to:

  • Find a subject to photograph
  • How to shoot in all types of weather condition
  • Understand the light at different times of day
  • Improve your compositional skills
  • Blend into the environment so that you can capture impactful street images
  • Use his 8 key tips in order to capture the best portraits

Watch and learn with Steve as you accompany him through the fishing villages of Portugal and in the vibrant streets of Havana. See for yourself how he creates images, as he shares ideas and experiences, and explains how to make great photographs. Steve will also suggest some projects for you to try for yourself.

You can use any device from camera phone to’s all about the image and storytelling.


Adriana L-G

For me this is not a class, is more the photographer talking about his photos and his experience. It is a little repetitive but I enjoyed. From Masters of Photography I loved Joel Meyerowitz's class and I recommend it strongly. In case you need to choose.