The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners

Lesson 17/17 - Elements of Design


The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners


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

“This is a great starter class. I thought I understood how shutter speed and aperture worked together, but this class made it come together in a matter of minutes. I'm already taking better pictures and this is just the beginning!” -Jennifer Manley, CreativeLive Student

Learn how to take the kind of photograph you’ll want to print and pass on to the next generation. John Greengo is back to teach this updated photography for beginners class. You’ll learn the principles of good beginner and intermediate photography and get the skills necessary to create amazing photos. 

Advanced cameras are available at modest price points, but learning how to use them takes an investment.

  • Learn the the most essential functions of your camera 
  • Gain confidence in putting new functions into action 
  • Get the swing of basic photographic terminology 
  • Feel prepared to move on to more advanced classes 
  • Gain a solid understanding of must-know lighting and composition techniques 
  • Lean to position yourself and your subject to capture the best photo possible with the camera you have – no additional gear needed 
If you want to take more memorable and inspiring photographs of your travels, your friends and family, or the great outdoors then this photography for beginners class is for you. Learn how to make average pictures amazing photographs and gain the ground necessary to continue your photography education.  

“This is a super introduction to photography for anyone who really wants to learn how to understand and begin to use the camera to its full extent. John is an excellent teacher, very easy to follow, with great graphics and examples.”  -Sarah, CreativeLive Student  


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!

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!