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Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 8 of 61

Composition Practice Exercise


Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 8 of 61

Composition Practice Exercise


Lesson Info

Composition Practice Exercise

Here's a little exercise in controlling shapes in your composition and I want you guys to learn how to see these shapes and you don't have to have your... You can just have your smartphone with you and you can practice this. Let me give you a little example. So last weekend, after Thanksgiving, my family and I took a little vacation and let's see... Okay, yeah so here's what you do in your exercise before I give you the example. Learn to see shapes, right? Adjust the shapes by just changing your perspective, right? So what does that mean? Look at it from a lower angle. Look at it from a higher angle. Look at it from the left. Look at it the right. Do it close. Do it far away. Often, as photographers, we tend to just wherever is most comfortable for us, that's where we shoot. So we're walking along, everything is shot like this because that's the most convenient for us, but if you really want to improve your composition, start taking a lower angle or raise your camera higher and see wha...

t it looks like. You can have full control of those shapes by how you see things and that becomes very powerful once you start understanding that. So then not only do you shoot an up and down portrait, you got to shoot it landscape. Now I review hundreds of photographs of students all the time every year. I want you to analyze your photos. If you, most likely, if a person has trouble with composition, they shoot a lot of portrait which means up and down. Why is that? The reason is it's easy to shoot portrait and eliminate all the other elements in a story, right? If I just shoot up and down, I can just fill that person up in that shape and I don't have to worry about anything else but once I turn the camera this way, uh oh. What am I gonna do with this stuff over here? Then you have to actually think more and you have to arrange more information in elements and that's hard to do. I want you all, even you folks at home, to look at your photos. If you have a lot of photos that are portrait, up and down, that means you probably not comfortable with composing more than one element in your photo and you need to work on that so both, shoot in portrait and landscape. Practice in ordinary places. You just don't have to practice it when you go to Paris or Italy. You can practice it here, wherever you are because that's in the real world, you're gonna get a hum-drum place and you're gonna have to make your magic and that's how you get paid. You need to learn how to see interesting shapes in the most ordinary places and so that's actually a great exercise. So here I am, after Thanksgiving, we're gonna go to Palm Springs and take a few days and of course I'm working on this lecture. And I look over there and I go, "that would be a typical situation, you know." It's like you're there up by the pool area there and most people would say, "hey, go up on that bridge there "and let's take a picture." Right? So just a very common thing. So here's what typically someone would do. You bring, I had my daughter around. Okay, why don't you go up there and take a picture? What's wrong with that picture? Big old tree coming out through her head, right? So this would be... I'm sure there are thousands of pictures right here like that, right? People not aware of their surroundings. You take a picture, ooh distracting so what's my next step? I'm shooting it, oh a tree. Maybe I can raise it higher to see if I can place them in a better open space. I do that and I go, "well it still looks like "she's got horns and trees, that's not gonna work." Maybe I can go landscape and see what I can find. So I turn the camera in a landscape position and I actually find an open spot, okay? Oh, put her right there but the problem is is don't you see those palm trees and her head all at the same level? So your eye tends to just stay there because I'm not creating a diagonal with those elements so what do I do? There's some stairs there so I take a lower position so I could raise her head higher and so now this is even stronger because now you can see a diagonal across the entire frame and it leads your eye to look at the entire thing. Now guess what. She, the subject, did not move one inch. She stayed where the light was great. I moved. I changed my perspective. People don't realize how much power they have by just changing your perspective. You can take somewhat of a hum-drum spot and take a good picture by just changing your perspective. I look at this. Now, I always think in terms of, like, shooting and I think in terms of, "wow my couple would look great there." so I go, "oh shoot, if I was a wedding photographer here, "I could actually out of this ho-hum place, "I could actually take a great picture. "I could put my subjects there, I could shoot up "and I would have a beautiful picture "in the most typical places." That's what I really want you to concentrate on is just going into your most ordinary places and trying to make that magic happen by just changing your perspective and looking for those scot spots or those clean backdrops where you can put your subject, okay? The subject never moved here. We have a question about just being on location, Lorraine Best asked, "do you scope out these locations "in advance or are you familiar with the areas you shoot?" Most of the time, I'm not familiar with them. For example, if I'm doing a destination wedding or something like that, they don't want to pop an extra few days for me to hang out. So a lot of times when I do a session, it's the first time I'm meeting them and it's the first time I've ever seen that spot but if you are going to a very popular place, I highly suggest that you search Instagram or Pinterest and see what's available there and then you can get ideas that way. Even though you can't physically be there, the internet is a great tool and we can get ideas from that. Look at their pictures, and then improve on top of that or put your own creative twist to it. Good question. We've got one in the studio. So I notice a lot of your, like this image in particular, what would you say your F stop was on this or most of them that you show with a big depth of field? Okay, yeah so when I'm doing my epic landscape shots, what's kind of like my camera setting? Okay so when you do wide angle shots, now one of my favorite lenses is a 16 to 35, so when I'm shooting landscape I'm using a 16 to 35 millimeter lens. When you're shooting that wide, you can't get blurry. It's really hard to get blurry depth of field. When you're shooting wide, it makes your composition skills even more important. Why? Every detail is gonna be in focus and so I actually use that to my advantage when I post process, it's that I make everything a tack sharp so you can see all the texture in there and the colors, but at the same time, I need to find a place where my subject just pops immediately. That's why I'm saying if you shoot landscape, and you make your subject really small or smaller, that is a great exercise because it takes great skill in your compositions to make everything pop out at you but still have really tack sharp detail in the background. Okay so now for the stupid question, gotta have it. Do you put your focus point on your subject or is it... Yes, I put the focus point on my subject but because a lot of times, because you're shooting wide and a lot of times I'm shooting at F 16 or whatever, everything is in focus anyways, pretty much and so it's not as critical as if you were shooting a 1.8 shot, then you gotta be tack on, but if I'm shooting wide, your focus point should, usually it's very easy for your camera to focus at that point, it will grab something and a lot of times, everything is gonna be in focus anyway because you're shooting wide. What you can do is download, everybody should download those DOF calculators, depth of field. That tells you, okay what camera are you using? It needs to know the size of your sensor, right? Then it asks you what F stop you're shooting and then how wide you're shooting it and how far your subject is away. I know from shooting group photos for weddings, if I'm ten feet away from my subject and I'm shooting wide say like at 24 millimeters, pretty much I'm gonna have 20 or 30 feet of focus area. I don't have to worry about it. Because of my training in shooting group shots and making sure that everybody's in focus, I kind of understand that concept, but if you don't it's very interesting to just get that program and change the parameters and see how much depth of field you have so like if you're shooting, let's say with a 50 millimeter 1.2 lens and you're like five feet from your subject, you've got about that much focus area right? One eyelash will be in focus and literally on the other side it will be out of focus. You might have that much depth of field, but you have to understand that when you're taking pictures to have the right camera setting.

Class Description

Want to be able to go into any situation with your camera and have the confidence to know you’ll get the shot? Award-Winning photographer Scott Robert Lim goes in-depth on the four foundational elements you must conquer if you want to develop your creativity and style.

Scott will give you the guidelines you need to master:

  • Lighting
  • Posing
  • Composition
  • Post-Processing

Once you master these fundamentals of portraits, you free up your mind to get creative and ultimately get the shot.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. 5 Shots That WOW
  3. Four Fundamentals of Photography
  4. Create a Visual Impact with Composition
  5. Importance of Foreground and Background
  6. Create Depth in Landscape Images
  7. Photos Don't Always Follow the Rules
  8. Composition Practice Exercise
  9. Composition Critique of Student Images
  10. Keys to Posing
  11. Shoot: Classic Elegance Female Pose
  12. Shoot: Modern Female Pose
  13. Shoot: Rollover Female Pose
  14. Female Hands & Arms Poses Overview
  15. Shoot: Hands and Arms Poses for Female
  16. Seven Posing Guidelines
  17. Headshots Poses with Male Model
  18. Shoot: Headshot for Male Model
  19. Shoot: Sitting Poses for Male Model
  20. Shoot: Leaning Poses for Male Model
  21. Shoot: Standing Poses for Male Model
  22. Keys to Couples Posing
  23. Shoot: Couples Posing
  24. Couples Transitional Posing Overview
  25. Shoot: Transitional Posing
  26. Keys to Group Posing
  27. Accordion Technique with Groups
  28. Shoot: Accordion Technique
  29. Shoot: Best Buds Pose
  30. Shoot: Talk with Your Hands Pose
  31. Shoot: Lock Arms and Hold Hands Pose
  32. Run at the Camera and Dance in Your Seat Poses
  33. Shoot: Pod Method Pose
  34. Posing Critique of Student Images
  35. Introduction to Lighting
  36. Soft vs Hard Light
  37. Difficult Lighting Situations
  38. Bright Light Techniques
  39. Overcast Light Techniques
  40. Low Light Techniques
  41. Lighting Techniques Q&A
  42. Drama Queen Lighting
  43. Laundry Basket Lighting
  44. Make it Rain Lighting
  45. Smart Phone Painting with Light
  46. Mini LED Bokeh Lighting
  47. Choose the Right Lighting System
  48. Hybrid Flash System
  49. Innovative Accessories
  50. Gear Overview
  51. Theatrical Post-Processing
  52. Ten Keys to Post-Processing
  53. Essential Skills to Post-Processing
  54. Headshot Post-Processing
  55. Bright Light Post-Processing
  56. Flat Light Post-Processing
  57. Low Light Post-Processing
  58. Introduction to Fine Art Post-Processing
  59. Light & Airy Fine Art Post-Processing
  60. Dark & Moody Fine Art Post-Processing
  61. Post-Processing Critique of Student Images


Vitor Rademaker

This course is amazing! Scott is extremely straightforward. He goes directly to practical problems, tips and etc. He explains every thing very clearly, and he is also very funny and charismatic, making you laugh as you learn. He shows that you don't need a lot of expensive gear to make very nice pictures. So I have saved some money as well, cause I was about to buy some gear that I wouldn't need right now. It is for sure one of the best photography courses I have ever attended to! I highly recommend! Thanks a lot Scott! You are the best!


I have purchased a number of classes, this being one of them. The quality of the information was good and the level at which Scott spoke was appropriate for me. Having a course sylibus would add greatly to the value, which usually is not part of the programs I've purchased including this one, unless I've missed it. I believe the speaker should be required to provide one. After watching the videos, much of material can be recaptured by seeing it in writing. I would like to hear back from Creativelive their thoughts. In sum, good topic, good speaker, good technical audio and video quality by Creativelive


Another fantastic class with Scott Robert Lim! The combination of his knowledge, willingness to share, passion & entertaining personality makes him a top choice for photography education. Learning not only the "what", but the "why" & "how" can transform one's entire approach towards MAKING pictures. A constant inspiration to get better & better through practice.