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Create Art Through Photography

Lesson 16 of 16

Student Photo Critique & Edit

Art Wolfe

Create Art Through Photography

Art Wolfe

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Lesson Info

16. Student Photo Critique & Edit

Lesson Info

Student Photo Critique & Edit

You know, the first time I started critiquing was right out of college. And I literally had little elbow-shaped pieces of cardboard, and I was, like, standing in front of a projector, and trying to say, "Maybe you could crop this way." So, the whole art of critiquing is new with the advent of Lightroom. We can do it in real-time. We had a, pick a number, and we picked 27 images, and I think, in the next hour or so, we should be able to get through 'em fairly easily. I also wanna say that the playing field is I don't want to hear anybody write us, email, saying, "I couldn't have done that or couldn't have done this." "You said move closer, but there was a cliff, "we couldn't have done that." Forget about that. We don't want to hear or have anybody feel, like, defensive. We are just saying this is a piece of art, and if you could move closer, and do this, that would benefit, or if you could've moved right, whether you could've or not. It's just, it's your work, but everybody's learning f...

rom the experience I guess is the best way to say it. And no excuses because there's no excuses necessary. I haven't studied this work. We picked out photos, all of, about... I think we probably took about 10 minutes to pick out these photos, so I haven't looked at 'em. I don't tend to want to look at a image and formulate an idea before I'm live, because I love that pressure on myself. (audience giggles) I'm also, as I said earlier, I'm not a great technician in Lightroom. But I know enough to actually transform an image, and I'm fairly good at sizing-up what the photographer was trying to do whether she knew it or not, I usually find what... With eyes wide open, I look at an image, and instantly get it, or so I believe. With all those disclaimers, we're going to begin the executions. (audience giggles) No, you know, the critique process should be really easy. When I critique in the classes I frequently teach, it's like, there's no reason to filet somebody, or to ridicule 'em, or to, you know. It's a learning experience, and everybody's different, and have been in the field of photography at different points in their life. Some have been doing it for 30 years, others, you know, six months. So it's just individual, and all that. So I guess I'm gonna get started here. So, I use Lightroom. There's other ways to post processed work. Lightroom is pretty easy for people like me. Although I first started with Photoshop, I let the adults in my office actually do it. I will, invariably and always, when I'm traveling, I will look at the images the very day I shot it. I'll work on those images up until one in the morning, and fall asleep, and get up the next day, and shoot a whole new batch of photos as I'm traveling. So I need to stay on top of it, and frequently, I'll pull photos into a folder, and send 'em off to PhotoShelter of which my staff grabs, and puts it up on the Internet the very next day. So I do things fast and I'm gonna do this fast. It's not perfect, it's not Photoshop, but it gets to the point, okay? So, the first thing is, I look at this, and I know where it is, it's Hidden Lake in the North Cascades. It's a beautiful area. It's where I cut my teeth as a photographer early on. And I think having the lake out of the center is brilliant. I think technically it's perfect with the foreground rocks. High horizon line allows the sweep of the eye to the distal mountains. So, all those things are really good. Lake out of the center, horizon out of the center. This person knows what they're doing. This is a raw image, I trust. And so what I would normally do is take the cursor, and highlights, and bring it a little to the left. And that darkens the sky. And then I'm gonna look at opening up the shadows a little bit. And I kinda like, oh, getting a little detail on the foreground. And then I'm gonna pull the overall exposure a little bit to the left. And those are minor things. And then one of the things I often do is I just look at tint. And pull it left or right. And I think the exposure is on. And so very little needed to be done with this image. A lot of times with sky, and foreground, and the shade, I would use a neutral density filter, and I'm sure I'm gonna do that quite a bit on other ones. But that was a pretty simple, easy one to start with. I think whoever photographed this, and the answer is Gabriela Fulcher, did a great job on this. So, thank you Gabriela, I mean, you made my life easy. (audience giggles) I love this shot. It's separating some sort of grain in the process. I like the angle of view. I love the fact that grain is coming out at all directions. I love the highlight of the sun coming around the shoulder. This is Sanjeev. I think the last name is Nepali. And so I think it's a really cool shot, but I'm gonna just do that trick with the highlights a little bit, and pull that down, and that brings detail to the sky. And then I'm also gonna to investigate whether it's worthwhile pulling up the highlights. And, yeah, I can pull up the highlights and get detail in the dress of this woman, or I can just leave it as a silhouette. And I then look up at the top, on the right, and that's what we call the Histogram. And I may just, like, pull the blacks, and pull that a little bit over. And this brings a little bit of life to it. So, typically, the workflow is highlights down, shadows up, then I tweak the whites. And the darks. And a perfect Histogram would be one where we're not a clipping the whites from the darks, and that is what we're seeing. But if you wanna clip the darks, you just pull it to the dark, and make it more of a silhouette. But I think this is a proper exposure. Now compositionally, there's that out of focus line to the left. And that is a little disturbing to me, and I think cropping this, and you can see, on the right, where that little arrow is, I'm gonna close that lock, because I don't want people knowing I'm cropping. I'd rather stay to a format that is exactly as the capture was. So the proportion remains the same. And by pulling that in, I lost a little bit of the dress on the bottom, but that's okay. It's not integral in the composition. But it does remove that vertical line that I can't explain, but, maybe something out of focus in the foreground, and that simplifies the image. And let me look at that now. So, by hitting L twice, we can darken, and bring the frame in, and I like looking at my images that way. I think that the dynamicness of this image is the grain flying around, the positioning of the cameraman below, the little bit of the sun peeking around. I think this photographer has done a great job and it's a unusual shot. I have not seen that quite like that before, so really good job, Sanjeev. And if I mispronounce your name, we are renaming you. (audience giggles) This is pretty cool. This is a balloon that's on water, of course. And often foam builds up below a waterfall, and that may be the foam that you see at the base of a waterfall. But that line is beautiful. The thing that I would do with this image is just move that subject, which is the balloon, slightly off-center. So I've got a locked composition. I'm just gonna pull it to the right to make an emphasis on the fact of the putting it off the center, and creating more tension by having the main subject off-center. The beautiful lines in the foam are really well-framed. I might take down the highlights, open up the shadows. But I think what's really going to transform this image... If you look at the Histogram, we've got a lot of room to pull the whites, and that brings a snap to this image. And then I might look at neutralizing some of that blue. It's in the shadows. If I pull the temperature on top a little bit to the right, the white foam becomes whiter. And I think that works. I might pull the highlights down, and make sure the balloon's not washed out. And this is really the typical thing I'm doing with all my images. And I just want to maximize the contrast on this because it's kind of a quiet image. And maybe, finally, I'll readjust the overall exposure to make sure the balloon has detail. There's not a lot of work to be done here. But I really like the fact that there's so much motion in the water. And, as I say, if I click on the framing again, you can see how much I lost. And just intentionally making it unequivocal that the main subject, the balloon, is off-center, helps that image, without really changing the integrity of the composition, okay? This is more common in terms of the differential, and the lighting on Air's Rock, and that late sky, or early sky, I can't tell the direction. You know, this branch, this tree on the left, it almost overpowers the Rock, because it's graphic. And I'm just wondering whether it would be better to eliminate that. And I'm not so sure. But I'm gonna to try. I'm gonna just see what kind of a shot we have without that. And maybe close the gap a little bit. I just want the simplicity. And I know the photographers rolling their eyes at home, but I think that that tree is... Let me click on it, let me just look at that tree one more time. Maybe there's several ways to skin this cat. And I, as I say, I often am playing with this, working in Lightroom, it's nondestructive. Maybe drop in. So I clicked on that vertical square in the middle. And that's what we call a graduated neutral density filter. So I clicked on it, I'm dragging it down. First thing I would do is pull down the highlights. And what I'm doing is over-darkening the sky so that later on I will adjust the overall shot. So, bing, bang, boom, done. Now I'm taking the exposure and I'm opening up everything. So now I can see the tree and the Rock far better without washing out the sky. So that's pretty effective right there. I guess what I'm saying about this tree, is if it was a more dramatic tree with gesture, I think it would work far better with the subject. And I'm just thinking it's too much of a interloper in the overall expanse of the landscape. We have a wide-open landscape. Air's Rock is the largest monolith on the planet. I want to give all credit to the Rock. I think the answer might have been was to move closer to the tree, and have the tree frame the Rock a little more, so that the tree isn't such a secondary element because it stands out from the rest of it, but it's so small, that I think it becomes like an afterthought. So, again, I think that having the tree is maybe not the best idea. And, again, you could easily crop it out, make it a panoramic. Or, another solution would be, just to simply make it a panoramic. Lose a lot of the energy of the sky, but a panoramic now plays the shape of the Rock. And by cropping it in... And often I'll crop a shot, and come down here, and these are all panoramic proportions. So there's a lot of different panoramic proportions. By clicking that in, that's one. If I go back to 16 x 10, oh that doesn't work. And, let's see, okay. So, none of those work. I'm gonna go back and hit Reset. So this is all part of the work process. Let's see. Hit Reset down there. And I'm gonna start this one more time. I'm going to hit and open up the lock. I'm going to bring this down. And I think most of the drama in the sky is really in those clouds directly above. And by removing the dark space to the right, now I'm simplifying the shot by cropping it in. That tree has a little more significance in the overall frame. I'm gonna click on the neutral density filter and drop it and even a little more. And now, finally, I look at the Histogram, and I think I can pull the whites to the right. And essentially what I'm doing with these images is I'm looking, without prejudice, at the image, and trying to figure out how to make the statement that they've done stronger and more graphic, and I think that helps that image. It's a panoramic format. The Rock is very horizontal. And I think now the cloud above it becomes more dominant, and that tree now has a satisfying proportion to the overall frame. Okay? And, one other trick is, that graduated neutral density filter, I could actually bring up from the bottom. And if I just gingerly do that, and darken the bottom like that, the eye follows the light. And so by even doing that little bit I'm giving more volume to the foreground, and your eye naturally goes from the shaded foreground to the lightest part of the grass, and it's a way of entering the frame. Moths to light. So that's, I think, the best way to see that image. And if I hit F, it's full screen, so everybody in the studio can see it. Would you all agree that's a little stronger? And if you don't, just don't say anything, because I'm not that confident. (audience giggles) So you can see, it opens up the shadows, makes it a little more dramatic, it pops it. But the crop was a big part of this going forward. Okay? Alright, so, as you look at this image, what's the drama of the picture? Well, it really lies in the waterfall. Above, you can see it's along some sort of road where there's a bulkhead that's man-made. There's a fence up there that's hard to perceive. There's a bright sky up there. I think the essence of this image lies in the beauty of the way the water is falling over this rock. So I don't mind at all... I could easily dark in the sky, but even if I darken it it's still not contributing to the strength of the image. So often I'll take my images, and I'll not do that, but I'll pull it up. And at a certain point, then I'll go to the 2 x 3 or 4 x 6, which is exactly the proportion of a 35mm camera. And I'm basically honing your eyes to the strength of the image. And, yeah, there's one shot the tells you okay, this is a particular waterfall built along a highway. This one has a little bit more organic without the hand of man so much. And so that's the way I would crop this. Basically highlights come down. Shadows come up. I scroll down and I start to play with whites. And that whites will bring life to this image. And then I might look at the color. It's kind of blue in the water. I might just look and see what would happen if I pull the blue to the right. Warm up the color. This is a pretty simple fix for this image. It's one way. Now. that's one way of seeing that. If you want to be faithful to the way you shot it then I will go back to, ah, I'll Reset. And as I say, the neutral density filter could come down over this. We can darken this. First highlights. And then the overall exposure. But that's the real challenge, you know, is to bring that down... And when I'm doing that filter, I often bring shadows, and open up the shadows, you can see that. And so that's a little more forgiving, now, looking at that waterfall. I'm leaving the composition in place. And it may be important for this person to have that image the way you shot it. And now we have tools where we can go in and kind of paint. When I critique, I'm trying not to turn it into a Lightroom class, 'cause I'm not here to sell Lightroom to you, but it's an education, and you can see that by painting over this... And actually there's a real new trick in Lightroom where you can use the neutral density filter and do a few moves, and actually reclaim the shadowed areas. But this is quick and dirty, and it gives the essence of the image. So that has helped that image quite dramatically by staying to the original composition. I try to avoid these little things, these little tendrils of incidental lines. We can get rid of 'em, or it's best to avoid including 'em in the beginning. And so we can get rid of 'em easily in the healing brush, and you just paint over 'em, and just say goodbye. So those are tricks of the Lightroom. Okay, so, I'm looking at this image, and as a photographer, it's a perfect reflection. I probably would've used a stronger telephoto, and that's saying that I'm presuming that the photographer did not have that telephoto. But the meat of the shot is in the color of those little shacks and their reflections. So if I was to shoot this, I probably would've, A, laid on my belly and shot, and brought in the reflections to where I'm abstracting it. Having said that, I think this shot will help just moving in a little tighter, making the most interesting part of this more dominant. And I could turn that in to... Because there's nothing back there or in the foreground that's really adding to the drama of the image. But this would be best done actually at the inception of the photo, by moving the camera lower to gain more of the reflection, which is obviously something the photographer... And in this case, Wolf... I won't even pronounce the last name, but W-O-L-F is, I believe, the first name. Okay. The other thing is, the reflection is usually two stops darker than what's being reflected. So I can either solve that by coming in from the bottom, and making it bright, and therefore now it's got the same tonality, and then I might take the overall exposure down. So that further evens out the reflection with what's being reflected. They are of the same color and tone and lightness. And that, I think, helps that image quite a bit. And let's look at... Yeah. It's minor, but it's still quite a bit more effective. I still think a tighter shot and getting lower what have been the answer for this image. Yeah, this is the first step, and invariably and always, there's usually a fifth or sixth shot in a series that I actually hone it in. I first see a shot like this, then I'm gonna take the picture, then I move, and then I take another picture. And I'm now getting into the subject. And a lot of times it's a moment of discovery. You're not walking up and shooting the very best composition from the get-go. It's usually a series of three, four, five or six shots that you're discovering the shot, you're moving into a better place. I work that way, all my colleagues work that way, and I suspect most people work that way. We're not just walking up to the absolute pinnacle of the best shot, we are discovering it as we progress and get more comfortable with the subject. Alright. So this is... You know this is the challenge on a shot like this. Because there's a lot of drama in the sky and there's a lot of interest in the foreground rock. I love the fact that the lighthouse is off-center. But the horizon's in the middle. And so what do we do? That's a challenge. What I would've done in this particular case would have been to get a little lower and make that foreground so much more dominant. Get closer and lower. I'd use a tripod. And, so, depth of field would matter in this place. I probably could do this by just using ISO and shooting at f/22. But I think the main thing was to make that foreground a little more dominant, lowering my point of view, and therefore, I could shoot higher, and lower the horizon. So in other words I compress the view. And I'm not sure if this clicker has a pointer, probably not. But my main objective would be to close this gap, have these rocks fill-in, have a little bit of water, and then I would give greater play to the sky, which has the color and the drama. I think the water itself is the least successful part of this photo. So it's just a matter of repositioning and looking at it. It is a textbook perfect postcard but we're now wanting something more than a postcard shot. So, that's what I would say about this image. It's a perfect exposure, but I think opening, playing with the light and dark, and now, you can see by just doing that, there's a little more color in the foreground. Going to open up the whites and the darks. I'm gonna now go to the neutral density filter, which, again, is that vertical rectangle, and I'm gonna bring this down. So I'm gonna hold your eye more towards the lighthouse by darkening the sky. And within that graduated neutral density filter, if I play with lights and darks, I can actually make more drama in the sky, which exists anyways. Because when you're playing with Lightroom and contrast, there is information in those clouds that we don't necessarily see in the first capture. So that helps that. But still, I think the best thing would have been slightly lowering the camera point of view maybe six inches, not a whole lot, and that would've closed that gap between the lighthouse and the top of the rocks, and actually allowed me then to reframe it, and get a little more of those beautiful clouds above. I think this photographer has done a good job on using those leading lines and having that disappearing point in the middle of the frame. So there's not a lot I would change in this composition. Let me see if there's any benefit. If this is truly a real image, then I'm gonna just owe it to myself to take down the highlights a little bit, open up the shadows, play with lights and darks. And that airiness a foggy morning might be benefited by having a little bit more luminance in the clouds. And you do that by playing with the highlights, and the shadows, the whites and the darks. And that helps that a little bit. Compositionally, I also could close this, and just play, and see if there's any way of playing with proportions. Because the disappearing line is the bull's-eye in the middle of the frame. And that could be a good thing. Okay, so, one other reason that I kind of talk about getting the horizon out of the middle. By having the horizon out of the middle, or in this particular case, the vanishing point out of the middle, it then allows us to use those lines in the foreground, and your eyes follow us into the depth of the composition. So by having higher horizon line, like this one is, it throws the total balance of the image into something different. It becomes much more of a sweeping view to the distant disappearing point than the original. By closing the gap, putting the horizon a little higher, then it allows me to incorporate more of the foreground, and create, more importantly, the sweep to the distant disappearing point. So when I look at this image, my first thoughts are everything's magenta. It's late afternoon, or, no this is early morning light. The photographer did a good job by getting up early. It's very magenta. Let's see, who is this shot. Dave Shumway. And, so, to me, the first thing I would do is pull the magenta, or the tint from the magenta to the left. And by doing that, the clouds are still pink, but it allows yellow and separation of color. When everything's magenta, it makes a more two dimensional color perspective of the subject. Yeah, we all appreciate early morning mauves and pinks, but the separation of color is also really important. And the more colors become separated, then the pinks that are really pink stand out even more. Now the next thing I would do... I think this shot begs to be a panoramic. And, so, again, pulling this thing down, pulling this up, and see where I'm using the line on the corner of the waterfall, and I'm gonna pull this left. Okay, not too happy with that yet. Okay, by doing this now, I'm raising a horizon. I know the person got up really early to get this shot, but... Wait, hold on to me, let me try to steer this thing. Highlights come down. That brings back color in the sky. Darkening this. Still think a little more less magenta. Then we go to the lights and darks. And this is the process. I've known people that've worked in Lightroom for a long time. They still kind of do this process. They stumble along the way until it starts to look good. This, to me, works better as a horizontal, it's a very horizontal landscape. Most of the content lies in that center 1/3 of the frame. I think there's still really nice pink sky. I haven't done the shadows. If I open up the shadows a little bit this breathes life into the image more. And it's starting to look pretty good to me. So... I go back to the original composition. Anybody have, I mean, I think we have enough time for a discussion. Do you guys like that idea? Look at that image. So, overall, it looks magenta. I think the meat of the composition is in the waterfall that I kinda cropped around in the foreground. The sweep up to the mountains. I think it's a very lateral landscape, so I'm playing strength. The blue sky, that big patch of blue above, I don't think it's worth having that in the frame just to have it there. So my belief is to pull it down, and really tighten up this composition, to where every part of it actually contributes to the greater whole and that's where I wound up, okay? And I could say the same thing about this. This is like a lateral landscape. First thing, I'm gonna to correct the horizon. Then I'm gonna pull this thing up so that the land formation on the edge of this canyon becomes more dominant. I'm gonna to actually see if there's any details in the sky, and there is. But, you know, it's pretty bland. So maybe when I'm gonna do is, just, again, pull this down, tighten up the composition, and, believe me, I'm doing this on my work as well. If I can't get close, I'm gonna just shoot it to the maximum effect of what the camera can do. And what that means, what does that really mean? That means there's ways to... If you know you're gonna crop, you can shoot with the lower ISO, you can shoot with f-stop, that's the sharpest on your lens, which is usually the middle f-stops. You could use mirror lock-up and tripod if that's the way you wanna go. But end result is I'm maximizing the capture so that I can crop without having important pixels really decimate the image. And so when I know I'm cropping, and I know I don't have the lens with me, I'm gonna do all those things. Low ISO, appropriate f-stop. If everything's on infinity, I'm gonna use the middle f-stops to maximize the sharpness of the lens and use techniques like mirror lock up, and tripod, and at the end of all of that, I've got an image I can crop without really wrecking the image. But I think that, this shot, you want to convey the openness of the southwest landscape. I think I probably could darken the sky a little bit more. But I haven't cropped out anything important in this frame. Nothing above the crop mark on the sky really adds to the whole, and nothing below that line adds to the whole. So I think that makes a tighter, more graphic image, and you can see what I've let go. And again, if I open up that, and click on that, I could darken this. Because I want your eye actually to stay in here. I want the brightest part of the edges of these mesas to be the thing that attracts your attention. It doesn't lie above. I could, for that matter, even crop the distant hillsides out if I wanted to. I could come to this, pull this down, and just allow it to be the landscape. Because that distant blue ridge in the distance becomes the sky. Sky to our eyes. Okay, this is a really interesting cultural shot. Somebody's harvesting, let's just see what we got, here. And, you might want to remind me, let me look back whose was this? This was Rick Verbanec, that's the shot, okay. Now as I go forward, I want to click on this, and see what's going on. So this person is harvesting minerals. What is that yellow mineral that they collect? This is South America somewhere. Alright, so as a really interesting cultural shot, so I don't want to do too much cropping. I want to retain the integrity of this image. But, you know, horizon, this is kind at the edge of the lake, and I think by rotating just a little bit, I'm looking at the legs, the verticality of the legs, and I'm looking at that shore, and that becomes our leading line. And so, if I keep that, and lock that. Pull in just a tight... I want to give a little more satisfying view of the person. Then I'm gonna take the highlights down. I'm going to open up the shadows so that we can see a little bit of the face. So now there's a little more detail in the face. Is this, yeah, this almost looks like Indonesia, or it could be South America, I have no idea. But at any rate, it's a really interesting shot to me. And I look now at the Histogram, and I know I can pull the whites and the darks a little bit. Make this image pop a little bit. So now there's a little more color that's working. And I could take this healing brush, this last brush on the right, and make it much larger. And what I would do with this is just pull it to the minus and just paint in this area. And now I see there's actually a cloud. There's a cloud hanging over the lake. But I need to pull that down to hold your eye into the main part of that frame. And I could also vignette this a little bit. By vignetting it around, I'm putting greater emphasis now on the person himself. So I've kind of cropped it a little bit. I've rotated it. I've played with lights, and dark shadows, and highlights. And I've maintained the integrity because it's a small person and a big landscape, and I didn't want to ruin that. And so I think that just minorly helps that image. Would you guys agree? And the answer is, "Yes." (audience giggles) I'm groveling now. That's known as groveling. You know, it's really difficult to shoot land formation on the edge of the large lake or the sea. And I can't tell, this could be one of the Great Lakes. This is shot by Wolf Matthewson. I'm really good at names. Okay, so, highlights down, shadows up. Whites, darks, pulling it. So suddenly now we've got detail. Another thing we could do, which is rather radical, is I've hit on to the neutral density filter, and if I pull this really wide, the line between dark and light is really soft, and if I just slowly pull that a little darker, but not too much, I can actually kind of counter the brightness of this and the darkness of that, and the overall exposure then I can bring up, and now that's reclaiming some of those shadows in the dark. And that helps that image quite a bit. Now I'm going to look at the Histogram. The Histogram looks good. It's post-sunset light. If I open up the exposure a little bit more, there's nothing being clipped, there's nothing out of gamut and that image. I think that helps that image quite effectively. Okay. I just clicked on the crop, and I'm just gonna see how much I ruin this image. What I did by that is I'm letting go a little bit of that hillside, but by doing that proportionally, I'm raising the horizon in the frame, so it's a little less centric. Maybe that's the way I would look at that. But whether you guys agree with this, or the owner of the image is inflamed at home, it really doesn't matter to me. I think the most important thing to see is how I work on images every day, and what I would do with my own images. So I'm often cropping it a little bit. Rotating a horizon, as much of a stickler as I am on keeping a horizon straight, I never get it right myself. The eye that I focus with always reads horizons off. So I correct for that. Try to get the horizons out of the middle. Play with lights and darks. Shadows and light, you get it, and that's what we're doing. I think I was here on the day that this photographer shot this. Christine Rogers. It was in South Dakota at what they call the Buffalo Roundup. It was on September 1st of last year. And, so, I'm almost certain I was there that day. But if you look at this image, that big white sky kind of overwhelms the content. And, again, when I crop, if I'm cropping into a 35mm, I'm gonna close that lock. So whatever I do is retaining the 35mm proportion. But since this subject is widespread, the cottonwoods along this river is wide, it dictates that I wanna make it a horizon. There's nothing about this line that really adds to this shot. This is in Custer State Park, South Dakota. So I'm going to play to the strength of the image. And it makes a very long panoramic. So maybe I'm going to close the gap and I'm looking at the content. And cropping as a means to an end isn't what we want to really do. But when I crop, what I'm trying to do is say, okay, next time you're there, shoot tighter, use a stronger lens, zoom in on the salient elements in the frame. And to me, that's what the photographer saw, and had they had a stronger lens, they might have done that. I am very liberal in my panoramics simply because when I hit this, and I go to this, there's three different panoramics, but there's a whole lot of other cameras that capture different panoramics. So, you know, nobody's going to take a tape measurer. Whatever looks good in the frame, I'm going to stick with, and I'm pretty liberal about that. But I think that lateral landscape, the lateral group of bison, the cowboys, all of that hones your perspective into the most interesting shot. This is a great shot. This is a great shot of three polecats. I don't know what a polecat is actually. These three raccoons are great looking. They're really interesting, they are perfectly framed, I love these rocks that they are in. The only thing I might do... And, look at, there's a lot of photos I could easily say, "I wouldn't touch it." But, you know, you're paying me big bucks to crop your photos, so I'm gonna to do that. So I'm just pulling it in ever so slightly so that they are still dominant in the frame, but I'm putting them off-center. So I think that works. No bull's-eyes here. They are great, that's a great shot, I wish I owned the image. I love the color of the textures of the rock. I'm gonna look up, I can pull just a little bit of the whites to the right. But that's all I would do. I think it's just a lovely image, beautiful. Bad boys, they're always up to no good. You know what they do, I have a Japanese garden in West Seattle. And they love nothing more than to pull up all the moss that I've cultivated over the years. Okay, so Jerry Cahill shot that beautiful raccoon shot. Shout out to Jerry. I don't know what's going on here. I love the shot. It looks like tractors in early morning. I'm gonna first open up the exposure to breathe a little more life into it. Again, I'm sure whoever shot this, and this was... I don't know if it's a A Darryl, or Darryl with an A in front of it, but Jackson. A really interesting shot. Tractors. Maybe it's a Midwest shot, maybe it's Germany, I have no idea, but, any rate. By opening it up, we see the John Deere tractors, let's see. It's shot in low light, and, so, basically, the image has a bit of noise to it, but the drama of it kind of counters some of that. So I want to kind of get a little more detail out of this without destroying the essence of it being a nighttime shot. And then the other thing is, I'm going to straighten the horizon, and maybe pull it in a little bit, again, to take it slightly out of the center. Those are quick studies to look at this image. And when I reduce noise, I basically go down to the detail, and look at noise, and sharpening, and I could pull that little bit. Usually where I to reduce noise is somewhere around 30 to 40. That helps that a little bit. Pretty cool, I like it. Good job, you could do a whole book on tractors. John Deere and all their employees would buy that book. Okay. Did we give the name to that person? Yeah, Darryl, okay. And now we're looking at Joan Sullivan's work. You know, these wind turbines, these big fans are pretty amazing subjects. I'm gonna open that up. I'm going to take the highlights down, open up the shadows. Look at the overall exposure. Now I'm not clipping the darks, can bring the whites over. Nice shot. What I would do with this guy is maybe just take the healing brush, it's big, I'm gonna just brush over the top area, darken this, so, your eye, and nobody really knows we're doing it, you're saying that I'm doing it, but when people look at this, they're not gonna know. And by doing that, then, the brightest part of the frame are the turbines. And I think the blue of the trees are nice. That's what I would do. A very simple shot. Wind turbines are kind of like drones, you know? We kinda like the concept of generating electricity, but, you know, the problem is that they do kill a lot of songbirds, migratory birds, and that's, you know, it seems like we can't quite find an energy source that's not wrought with some problems. You know, on this shot by Nancy Abel, the essence of this palm is beautiful. There's a lot of beautiful details in these palms. But the way we shoot it with this out of focus triangle, I would just say let's just own it, rotate it, and open it up, and just play to the strength of what you've got, you know? And that's what you do here. And I'm cropping it in a way that just brings balance to this shot. Now, I've rotated it, but I can always go counterclockwise or clockwise. And, you know, there are no there's no reference, we don't know which way is up. And so a lot of times with my abstracts I might, like, flip it horizontally, and just see how the eye enters the frame. This is kind of cool because I enter a frame, generally, left-to-right. It comes over there and my eye follows this line up. So this is the way I would look at it, particularly for me. I'm gonna take down the highlights, open up the shadows, as I've been doing all afternoon. Play with lights and darks. Saturate it a little bit. That's kind of cool. You know, I really get into the abstract nature of the really disrupted bark on a palm. And I think without the out of focus triangles, it's owning the abstract nature of what Nancy originally saw. And so that's what I do. And you know what's really interesting to me is people still get locked in... If the subject's on a slant, they need to still photograph it orienting the camera as you stand, by why not turn the camera a 45° angle, you know? Follow the lines of the subject, and zoom in enough, and then you don't have to crop it. I love this image. I love the nature of this image. There's layers, the bird in the foreground is nice, there's birds in the sky. Horizon's in the middle, that's a little problematic, but not... I think the shot is really quite cool. It just needs a little life. And if you look up at the Histogram, all that area means we can pull and brighten up this image. But first I'm gonna pull the highlights down, open up the shadows. Then I'm going to the whites. And that's... Looks too much, yet, but now, I'm pulling into the dark, and then I'm gonna overall adjust it again. Then, by doing that, I've naturally saturated the colors. So, I'm gonna go back to the saturation and pull that to the left. And I could've done this in any number of ways. But where I'm arriving is the right place to arrive. And so I'm going to try to make it as graphic and contrasty as possible just to... It's a monochromatic scene. But now that starts to bring the layers of what's in this frame. It's a little grainy so I'm gonna go down to the detail. I'm gonna neutralize a lot of that grain by pulling the noise reduction. And you click on this, and you kind a look at it, and you just see, okay, that has mitigated so much of that grain, it starts to look... This bird, the short bird, is kind of out of focus, but that's alight, it's very small in the frame. I like the layering of this. So I think that really works. I don't know what to do about the horizon. You know, here's my philosophy. We're born, we eat, we go to the bathroom, we get our first camera, and we put the horizon right down the middle. That's the sequence of life right there. The mystery of life is solved. So, yeah, there's no way of getting this out of the middle. But it's still a beautiful monochromatic scene and sometimes, as you've seen, you can just click on lights and darks. And when you are in the black and white world, then you can even be more radical about contrast. It gets really wonky with color but sometimes it becomes even more dramatic. Neutral density filter could be brought in. Lights, and darks, and that, and suddenly you're making this image sing. But, in color, well, that actually helps that in color, as well. And so it's got that greenish cast. We could pull it more to the magenta. We could pull it more to the yellow. So there's a lot of things, and that's kind of a personal choices isn't it? But I think the main thing was just to play with contrast, and bring a little life into the image. But I think as a black and white it works as well. We were looking at Pamela Cosner's work right there. So, really nice image, I love it. It's just, it's like an old world painting to me. So these rocks in Yosemite. See this thing up here, that little bit of tree up there? It becomes a nuisance to the eye, so I would just say let's get rid of that. That whole mountain isn't so critically important but the El Capitan is. So, the real challenge is this. I think by making this a panoramic... Horizon's still in the middle. Again, this is the process constantly that I'm doing of my own images, so I'm not singling out anybody. Every time, I'm looking at my own work, and trying to figure out, alright, what do I do with that? That actually helps, but, there's beautiful clouds back in there. So, as I say, it's a little too complex to describe now, here, but there is a process of using the neutral density filter. It's a brand new contribution by the folks at Adobe that allows you to drop down the graduated neutral density filter and use healing brushes. I'm doing this really fast. And quite honestly I've gotta remember it before I can teach it. But those kind of things help that image out. I think the main thing was to make it a horizontal image. I would've liked a little more foreground rocks and snow, and higher horizon, that's what I would've done there. But I think that helps that image. Okay, so, the most interesting part is this tree right? So what we're gonna do is breathe some life into this tree by highlights down, shadows up, whites over, overall exposure. And then we can see if we want to make this yellower, warm up the snow. I'm gonna take the horizon and tilt it. And you can see how far off the horizon was. And I'm using these lateral lines in the snow as a guide. So that helps out a lot. It's actually a very nice image. It's very simple. Beautiful lines, very sharp, nice image. And that comes to you by Dave Butler. Okay, so, for this horizon, I'm gonna just bring this down. I'm gonna open up the shadows. It's such a lateral landscape that I want to make that the most important thing. I'm not clipping the mask. Highlights down, shadows up. And now I'm gonna introduce the neutral density filter. Hold the eye more into the boat area of this frame. Now I'm gonna look at color. The color is a little saturated because of what I've just done. So I'm gonna pull the saturation a little bit back. De-saturate the image. Yeah, almost... A lot of these, as I'm struggling, the horizon's down the middle now. I could've done the opposite, and pulled this up, now we have the horizon out of there. But unless you're into jets and contrails, that's kind of a hard one to play with. I mean, I think the image is nice, it looks like it's Seattle. It's pretty grainy when I pick on that. And so I think that this image was probably pushed a little bit beyond what the camera can handle. That's a lot of grain to try to mitigate. So I think this person... You know, the idea is probably using a lower ISO. Maybe a tripod at dusk or a little more modern camera. Okay, so, yeah, when I look at this bird, it's a sharp shot that's as good as the first 10 years of my eagle-shooting. But I think that the shape of the eagle's a little awkward, and, yet it's tack sharp, so... Let's just play with the exposure. Shadows up, highlights down. Yeah, it's really sharp. So what I've done cropping-wise is try to make the eagle a little more prominent in the frame, and I think the cropping can handle that. I might say let's pull it to the blue side and make that yellowish color a little less dominant. Blue sky's kind of nice to go behind this. Even though it's late in the day, I think that works a little better. Yeah, it's not a bad shot, there's better shots of eagles to be gotten, and I'm sure that person that took this picture, which is Gabriela Fulcher, will have more eagles in the future. It's really a good sharp shot, it's just the positioning of the bird, the gesture of the bird is a little awkward. Okay, so this shot is Rohan Nag. And, when I look at this image, I kinda wanna... You know, we read things from top-to-bottom, and from left to right, and having it come in this way, I just feel like it would be nice to click on the photo, and rotate it counterclockwise to have that flower coming out of there. And then I'm gonna go and flip it horizontal. You know, only the person that took this picture would know different, we don't know, we have no context. So there's no horizon line in this, and I'm just gonna make this a vertical, 'cause I think that holds your eyes slightly stronger in the frame. Highlights come down, shadows come up. I love the pastel purple and yellow on this, and if you squint your eyes, if you turn this into black and white, they're almost the same tone. I'm not suggesting it, but you can see how close the color is when we render this into a black and white. So complementary colors purple and yellow kind of work together. So there's a beautiful combination of colors, very delicate. Yeah, that out of focus secondary flower is kind of too close to being in the frame. So it would've been a better choice just to single out one blossom. I think this is a magnolia. But what's the strength of this image really lies in the color palette of what's going on. And that's where the strength of that image lies, okay? But that's not a good crop. So rotating images around, flipping around when it's an abstract, it's not like I'm flipping around, you know, a recognizable mountain like Mount Rainier. When it's a flower and a detail like that, anyway you wanna go, whatever makes the shot look stronger is the way it should go. So I'm frequently just rotating. So this is the first mountain I ever led a climb on, it was The Brothers. It's the view that I grew up from early childhood and to this afternoon, if I sit up in my bed, I would see these mountains across the water, so I love The Brothers. I think it's a very blue image so we're gonna pull the blue out a little bit and then darken the exposure. That helps that a lot. And there's three elements in this shot that are kind of competing. You got the gull, the mountain, and the boat. So we're gonna, like, go to this frame, and crop it as if we've never cropped it. Make the horizon straight. Yeah, that boat, let's look at that boat. Yeah, I mean, I think the simple shot would've been another shot just at The Brothers peeking out of the clouds. Turn it into a simple landscape. When we have kind of opposing subjects like a bird flying that way, and the boat going that way, and then the mountain. I think the simpler this is, the better the statement. We have too many elements pulling against each other, doesn't quite work. See the hand? Okay, what are we gonna do with that hand? Crop it out. I know. Okay, so, we're gonna lock that lock, and be faithful to the verticality of it. But, yeah, that hand goes away. Now, it's just a simple little girl. And, for me, I would probably rotate it, flip it horizontal so she's looking left-to-right. I'd straighten the horizon out on the top. Highlights come down, shadows come up. Maybe you drop in the neutral density filter here. Darken the sky a little bit. And rotate that. And then what I'm gonna do on this last one was bring in another neutral density filter from the bottom. Now, it's all about that girl, right? So that's one way of interpreting that shot. Very simple little girl on the ocean's edge. But yeah, that other person that's just secondarily in the frame, that looks like an afterthought, that looks like a mistake, that simplifies the theme, that's a much stronger image. Okay, well, everything I've said before, I'll say again. Highlights down. Shadows up. Overall exposure gets adjusted. Nice moment, nice moment. There's nothing I would really do to the crop on this. Yeah, I think it's good as it is, that's a nice shot. I like the environment on that shot. Okay, so, what's Art gonna say? (audience giggles) Okay, what's the most salient part of this composition? It's the connection between the little boy and what's interior of that image. There's the shot. So that's what I'm going to hold your eye into. Then I'm gonna to correct the exposure a little bit. Highlight that down, shadows come up. I need to open up the exposure a little bit on the man. That means I need to darken the foreground, so maybe the healing brush or the neutral density filter. Kind of brush over this kid. Darken it. I need to do more than just that. I need to bring in the neutral density filter. Now, as you look at this, okay. It's a little green. I think also, yeah, I think the whites and the darks are okay. You know it's... It's a little grainy, so we're gonna go down to the detail. That takes out almost all the noise. Oh, what's happening there? (audience laughs) So we bring in the cleaning crew. That's really lame, but you get the idea. So you can... On my computer, for some reason, I'm not able to get this. As I say, I need to take a class in this stuff, but I'm doing okay for right now. But it's the essential elements of what I'm looking at. I'm trying to look at the subject that the person decided to shoot. It really wasn't the out-of-focus person standing there, it's that, and that connection of the little boy looking in. So, simplifying the subject. Let's look back, now. So this one was shot by Clayton Getsinger. Kelsey Matarese. Karen Van-Atta. John Cor-ni-sello? Cornicello. Cornicello, okay. And this one was shot with Rohan Nag. David Hodgins. Brenna Schoultz. Dave Butler. Pamela Cosner, I like that one. I like this one as well, Nancy Abel. Joan Sullivan, this is a really nice shot. I like that one as well, this is Adarryl Jackson. Love Jerry Cahill's raccoons. Christine Rogers. Yeah, this one is really nice, Wolf Matthewson. And this one, Ute Gaenshirt. Just email me and let us know where that was, that's really cool. I still think it's probably Indonesia, in a volcanic area, and that yellow mineral is what? What is that yellow mineral? Sulfur. Sulfur, yeah, there's an area of the island of Java that has volcanic... I've never been there, but I've got a lot of books, as you know. (audience giggles) You know, I can't just leave this one here, I gotta correct it, because we're gonna send these photos as-is back to the person. And I remembered, I opened up the shadows on that one, and I played with whites and darks. So we're at the end of this, I'm just gonna fix this. Yeah, a lot of nice work. A lot of nice work. Okay, and Gabriela Fulcher. Jacqueline Hinz. Cathy. Narendra... Narenda... Okay, forget about it. (audience giggles) I never, ever name any names now when I go to Iceland. You know, most names in Iceland are like, the lake, at the back of the mountain, near the volcano, and then it's all, like, 36 letters, it's, forget about it. Okay, so this one is really nice. Sanjeev Nepali and Gabriela Fulcher. Okay, so, yeah, if people like what I've done with these images, I talk about composition in The New Art of Photographing Nature. We've got Photographs from the Edge, and we got The Art of the Photograph. These are fairly inexpensive books that talk about composition, and much of what I've talked today. So, on the website, or in your local bookstore, buy that, and thank you. I do want to say, before you ask the question, the cropping that I'm doing is a means to an end. So, in other words, when I crop that liberally, I am cutting out valuable pixels. So the idea is training the eye to see it before you shoot it, so you move forward, or you use stronger lenses. I'm not advocating taking cropping tools to everything you do. And of course, at this point in my life, when I take a picture, it's fairly thought out. There are times where I know, explicitly, I've got to crop. And therefore, as I said earlier, I will use the best technique to capture the most in the frame. But otherwise, I'm generally cropping at the moment I'm framing the shot, and that's the process I want to get people thinking about, okay? Thank you for that. Any final words of wisdom for everyone after a whole day of words of wisdom? But, for people to take what they've learned from you today, and go forward? I just, I hate to say, it but I'm 66 years old. I totally drink my own Kool-Aid. I really great believe the creative process makes happier people. More rewarding lives. So whatever the endeavor, whether it's photography like this, or some other endeavor that really charges you up. If you're a happier person, you're gonna affect the people around you, and I think that's a vitally-important thing to do. So, you know, go out, and be creative, and have a ball doing it, and just do it, life's short. Life passes by really quick. So, don't think about it, go out there and do it. And go see the world. And if you want to do a workshop with me, you know what I'm about, I'm pretty candid about who I am as a person. Come along on some of my trips and we'll have a great time.

Class Description

Photography is more than just a click of the shutter as it can create a statement or evoke a feeling and thus becomes a powerful art form. Internationally acclaimed photographer, artist and educator Art Wolfe joins CreativeLive to teach creative professionals how to see and make art in exciting new ways. 

In this class Art will share:

  • How to maximize photographic opportunities while traveling to unique and beautiful photographic destinations.
  • The best ways to take those special images efficiently. 
  • His favorite technological advances and how he uses them to enhance his creative vision. 
As a special segment, Art will preview how knowledge of art history provides a creative foundation and show students how to apply these principles to enhance their own compositions. He will also include a live critique of student images and, using Adobe® Lightroom® CC, will guide students through the editing process to transform the images into stronger artistic statements.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Art Wolfe eBook Bonus Material

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Thank you, Art Wolfe and Creative Live for this outstanding and astounding invitation to open my eyes and mind to a new way of thinking based on classic elements of design. This set of video lectures is a rich feast for the brain and heart willing to consider change. Art explains the elements of design such as texture, line, etc., and then shows how he has applied those basic principles. He explores metaphor, ambiguity, graphic design and negative/positive space--all with eye-popping examples. Wolfe takes us through the galleries of the Impressionists, Abstractionists, and Pop Artists to show how visiting our local art museums with a photographers eye can teach us to see in new ways. I love the way he shows, for example, a Mondrian or a Jackson Pollack or a Hokusai painting and then segues beautifully into examples of his own work inspired by those greats. Never does Art lose sight of the mission he has in this series, which is to inspire serious-hearted photographers to rise to new visual heights in their own work. He has a way of seeming to say, "Look. If I can do it, you can do it. Here are my secrets--let me break them down for you." To me, it was a privilege to take this class--my brain is exploding, and I'm itching to get out and shoot! Thank you so much, Art Wolfe and the Creative Live team--you are both amazing! Sandy Brown Jensen Eugene, Oregon

JIll C.

After watching Art Wolfe's presentation for just a short while, I have an almost irresistible urge to pick up my camera and get out into the world to look for the abstracts that can make stunning images. His body of work is simply stunning, and his verbal patter is mesmerizing. He proposes to find beauty in decay, and to train our eyes to see what others overlook. This is not a technical class, and there is no discussion of gear or camera settings. I found it very inspiring, and his ideas will surely help me to overcome the lethargy that has overcome my photography hobby.


Wonderful lecture with tips and tricks of how he shoots, what gear he uses, suggestions for comp, and samples of how he processes a RAW file in LR. Art was just as awesome as I had heard he was in person. I'm a professional photographer and definitely came away with many new tips, perspectives and inspiration to see your image differently and to look closer at the less obvious scene. Thank you Art for sharing your talent, its so very much appreciated!!