The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners

Lesson 17 of 17

Elements of Design


The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners

Lesson 17 of 17

Elements of Design


Lesson Info

Elements of Design

Final main section here is the elements of design, and these are just design elements that work in a lot of different types of the art world. We love lines. Lines are handrails for the eyes, and so if you have a good line in your photograph, you have a good element to begin with. It's probably not the subject unto itself, but it's a good element to have in your photograph, because we like these lines. It's something to really look at and to kind of grab onto with your own eyes. And so any time you have strong, distinctive lines, you probably have a good element to some sort of photograph, and there really isn't much going on in this photograph, other than those lines, but those are some nice lookin' lines. And so be looking for lines. Now if you take a line and you extend it, and get creative enough with it, you will create a shape, and we love shapes. And we like different types of shapes, we like shapes that we can recognize, and we like unusual shapes. They're very easy to identify.

You can see these in very small photographs, shooting aerials, this is in Australia. Very distinctive shapes here, shallow depth of field, which helps to really be able to show you these shapes more clearly. When you take a shape and you repeat it over and over and over again, you get one of my very favorite aspects in this field, and that is pattern. If you have a pattern, I don't care what it is of, it'll probably make an interesting photograph, and so look for natural patterns, look for man made patterns. Crop in tight, only show me the pattern, I don't need to see everything else. Just show me the pattern, and that's enough to go on. And so there are so many different patterns of things out there in the world, and what you wanna do is you wanna get in tight on these, you want intensity. It's not the most number of satellites that matter, it's density, and so these are where telephoto lenses can really help out to kind of narrow in your field of view. Now texture is gonna, is a pattern, it's just kind of a form of pattern, but I think it brings in some emotional response about, you know what that feels like. How smooth, how rough, what does that feel like in your fingertips, and you start connecting with the photograph on a whole nother level than just the visual level. And so, when I'm on my tours in Cuba, we talk about texture all the time, 'cause they've got these peeling paints and they just, you can feel 'em without feeling them, just by seeing them, you can feel them. Just how smooth is that? You immediately recognize that. Now the penguins, they have a great texture, these little soft, they call 'em baby bears, because they have bears with beaks and flippers. They have this soft little fur, but after it rains, look at the texture change, it's a huge texture change there. Of course, humans respond to color, so what do you look at in this photograph, where do your eyes return to? 'Cause if you look around the image, your eyes kind of bounce around, and they kinda keep coming back to the same thing, but when we turn this into a color photograph, that really changes the equation, because we are attracted to color, we love the color in a photograph. I love black and white, a lot of great black and white stuff, but we do love our color, and so when you see really interesting color, it's like okay that's a good scene for a photograph. Just an abundance of color can be really nice, complementary colors, blue and yellow have about the same vibrance, but they're totally different ends of the spectrum, and we see that vibrating, and it's very powerful. You can have a monotone color to your images, and so, green building, green car, green shirt. Spot color, where there's just a little bit of color, especially when that's your main subject, your subject really stands out in that regard. And so be looking for color, because that is a strong element that people will be drawn to your images when they see good colors. Alright, so when you go out to photograph, here is the way that I would think about things. Your first job is to identify what is your subject, 'cause I like to have a good subject in a photograph, and so what is your subject, what's the story you're trying to tell? Then you're probably next gonna figure out your point of view, where can you be to shoot this photograph? Can you go over there, can you go outside, do you have to do it here, what's the background gonna look like? At that point, I'm probably going to be starting to figure out how I wanna figure out my exposure. Do I want this shutter speed or that aperture, and I'm gonna start dialing that sort of thing in on my camera. I'll probably next be working with the focusing system on the camera, for that type of situation, and then finally I'll be figuring out what's the best composition for this particular scenario. Now I'll be honest with you, I don't always use these in that order, sometimes I immediately know what composition I need and then I get that set up and I start working on the others, but this is in general the workflow when I'm out shooting photos. Now when I am reviewing photos, I'm often asking myself the question, is this a good photo or not? And I imagine a lot of you are asking that question of your own photos, is this a good photo? Because I'll be honest with you, when I was starting out photography, I just looked at a photo, I'm like, might be good, maybe, I don't know, if you tell me it's good, then I'm gonna say yeah it's great, it's my best photo. And I didn't even know on how to judge my own photos, if they were good or not. And so here's kind of the criteria that I use for judging my photos, or anything that I see, as to whether I like it or not. There's two overriding concepts that I think are important. One is that it's beautiful, and two that it's interesting, and I should first say that my definition of beautiful is very wide. I have seen photos of garbage dumps that are beautiful. I have seen things that most people would consider ugly, but they're done in a beautiful way, so I think anything can be beautiful, it's just a matter of finding beauty in that subject. Now what's key to both of these is that you have an interesting subject, a compelling subject that people are gonna wanna engage in that photograph and are gonna wanna look at it for more than one second. Now things that are interesting are things that are new, obviously. So if something hasn't been photographed before, and you're the first person to get the photograph, that is gonna be a very interesting photograph. But let's face it, there's been a lot of people and a lot of photographers before any of us have come around, and we don't get to photograph new stuff very often. So maybe you can do it with a perspective that nobody else has taken to that particular subject, whether it's a angle of view, an attitude, a style, a different way of seeing that same subject, that's interesting. Or maybe use a little bit of mystery, this is maybe where you're not showing the entire photograph, you're showing bits and pieces of it, leading us to kind of think more about the subject. Those are things that I think are very interesting. What's beautiful? Well we've talked about good light, we've talked about composition, and the one that I think is especially important is the moment, because when you see something visually spectacular, there is nobody that can capture that better than a photographer. A poet, a sculptor, a painter, none of those people can capture visual moments the way photographers do. And so, capturing the right moment is right up there next to subject in what's most important in a photograph, and it's so important, I wrote a little something about it. And so, this is The Moment. As photographers, we live and die by the moments that come and go. We look at the world to see what we can see, we judge it not for what it is, but for what it might be. Wandering the land in search of good light, what we find intriguing is not all by sight. It is the capturing of a moment that is our endeavor, for only in photography do perfect days last forever. These moments are revealed to those that let go, free yourself from distractions and your vision will grow. They say everything has been shot and nothing is unique, view the world through fresh eyes, and all is romance and mystique. For what it is that we search, I cannot always say. When it appears, then most certainly, thy will know the way. One must be primed and ready to react, for the chaos of the world lives in the abstract. So much as we love capturing these moments of bliss, we equally fear those that we not see or just barely miss. It is in the apprehension of these moments that pique, that photography emboldens us to continue to seek. Subjects are chosen by our interests and vision, but it's history and experience that will determine our precision. The camera is critical, your eyes essential, when it sings to your soul, the moment is exceptional.

Class Description


  • Understand shutter speed, ISO and aperture and how they work together

  • Utilize depth of field

  • Learn to focus in manual mode

  • Understand different types of lenses and how they work

  • Create stronger images with composition

  • Use light to create mood and emotion

  • Learn about flash photography

  • Get an introduction to the post-processing workflow


Photography techniques, terminology and equipment can seem complicated and intimidating at first. But after a few hours with John Greengo, you’ll have the skills and confidence you need to go out and take amazing photos that you’ll want to print, share and treasure for a lifetime.

Designed specifically for beginner photographers, this course will walk you through the essentials of how to use your DSLR camera and all the key functions. You’ll learn photography tips about everything from shutter speed to aperture, depth of field to ISO. You’ll get a primer on how to compensate for bad lighting and how to compose your shot for maximum effect and better photos.

This class will help you:

  • Learn the most essential functions of your DSLR camera.

  • Gain confidence in putting new features into action.

  • Understand basic photographic terminology including the rule of thirds and the exposure triangle.

  • Get a solid understanding of lighting and composition techniques.

  • Figure out how to position yourself and your subject for optimal results.

  • Learn to take great photos with the DSLR camera you have without extra gear.

  • Feel prepared to move on to more advanced classes.

If you want to take more memorable and inspiring photographs of your travels, your friends and family, and the great outdoors, then this photography starter kit class is for you. By the end of the course, you’ll be ready to take your photography skills to the next level and continue your education with a more advanced photography course.



  • Beginning photographers looking to up their game and understand their camera.

  • People who are finally ready to get out into the field and actually capture the shots they want.

  • Any seasoned photog who wants a refresher (or to fix old habits) from one of the best out there today.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. What's the Best Camera for Beginner Photography

    Learn about the best cameras for beginners including how to decide between a Canon or Nikon, and whether the SLR or DSLR are right for you.

  3. Learn to Change Shutter Speed

    John explains how to change shutter speed and breaks down the terms, the numbers and how to get your exposure time just right.

  4. What Is the Best Sensor for a Digital Camera

    Learn about the best sensors for digital cameras and how they impact a camera’s functionality.

  5. How to Set ISO

    Learn how to set ISO so you can be sure to get the right amount of light for your image.

  6. Understand Types of Camera Lenses

    Learn about the different types of camera lenses you can add to your photography kit. Dive into focal length, maximum aperture, and how they affect the capabilities of your lens.

  7. How to Adjust Aperture

    Get the scoop on how to adjust aperture and how it impacts the amount of light coming through your lens.

  8. How Does Aperture Control Depth of Field

    Discover more about aperture and depth of field so you can control how much of your image is in focus.

  9. Choosing Manual or Auto Focus

    Get tips on how to stay in focus every time and whether you should use manual or auto focus.

  10. The Metering System Camera

    Measuring the amount of light hitting your subject can be tricky. Learn about the metering system camera to ensure you get an accurate read.

  11. Exposure Modes

    Most cameras offer both automatic and manual exposure modes. John explains how choosing manual will allow you greater control over your settings whether you use shorter or long exposure.

  12. The Best Camera Settings

    Here’s a rundown of some of the best camera settings to know, from file types to drive mode to white balance.

  13. An Introduction to Adobe Lightroom Workflow

    Get a quick lesson on downloading, organizing, post production, developing and more so you can optimize your Adobe Lightroom workflow.

  14. Understanding Light and Shadow

    When it comes to understanding light and shadow, you’ll need to know your lighting conditions and direction, size, intensity and color and how each one will affect your image.

  15. Know When to Use Flash

    John explains some of the complexities of flash photography and when to use flash.

  16. Basic Composition for Photography

    Learn basic composition, including where to place your subject in the frame to create the best photo possible.

  17. Elements of Design

    John goes over some of the key design elements that will bring your photos to a higher artistic level.


Kanoelani Patenaude

I am a pro photographer in my dreams, where I know the in's and out's of my camera; however, reality proved differently, as real life would tell you, I was a deer caught in headlights just looking at my new 7D Mark II. I am a photographer enthusiast without the skills, but a lot of love for the moments one, or the profession/hobby of it can capture. I mostly shoot my husband, friends, and community surfers in the lineup, and of course, my children, who rarely sit still. Thus, I switched from Nikon to Canon, venturing on the 7D Mark II for the grand reviews of how stellar of camera it is for action shots (surfing, and kids, this was a no brainer). That said, and overwhelmed with the way beyond my skill set, but noted desire and aspiration to grow, I made the purchase, and sought help rather quickly as I wanted to feel confident with what I was utilizing to capture the best memories possible. I came into this John's courses knowing the "on/off" button, and "auto" shoot mode. I came out of the course feeling like the pro in my dreams, and ready to shoot manual. John's teaching style is on point, and his detailed visuals are a huge plus. My first shots post this photography kit course, I thought were great for my first educated shoot, and shockingly, I even received and email from one of the sponsors of the surfers I captured, asking if they could use my image for their sites and publications. Not bad for a newbie. Though, my intent was never a business purpose, I did not know if I should charge a small fee, or give it for free. I don't mind free as it's not my business, yet I don't want to ruin it for any professional photographers in town doing the same thing that are charging. Perhaps another course to help me with that. I highly recommend courses by John Greengo! Thank you so much, John!


I'm not sure my first review posted. But I LOVE this class! John Greengo is a great, engaging teacher who is really adept at representing the concepts visually and excellent at explaining them verbally. I love how he goes through examples with photographs he has taken. Even though I only have a Nikon Coolpix digital camera, it does have Manual, Shutter priority, and Aperture priority modes. Through his class I've gotten a really good sense of how to balance ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. It's a great overview for me especially since I am new to photography, I can play around with some of these settings, and I have a greater understanding of what I might need in a higher level camera in the future. Money well spend! (For $29, this is an absolute steal). John Greengo is an awesome teacher and I hope to take more of his classes in the future!

Megan Wagner

John is extremely articulate and is a great teacher with lots of visual aids and metaphors to help understand photography. I have been doing photography for a few years now and this class was a tremendous help in boosting my knowledge and refreshing my memory in multiple aspects of photography. The graphics that John uses are helpful and he even goes through images and asks which settings would be best to use and will go through the why. He makes things easy to understand and is very clear about the information he provides. I am so glad I took this course and I would highly recommend it even to an experienced photographer. Thank you John Greengo!