Skip to main content

Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 4 of 61

Create a Visual Impact with Composition


Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 4 of 61

Create a Visual Impact with Composition


Lesson Info

Create a Visual Impact with Composition

Composition. I'm really excited to teach this next section because composition really is about creating visual impact. And I think for 2017, if you were to ask anyone of my students, I would say a great majority of them would say, "You know, Scott, you're great at lighting and posing, blah, blah, blah, but where I really learned the most was your ideas on composition." That has impacted their photography immediately. And so I feel like once I go through this lecture, for some of you, you immediately will photograph better. That's how exciting this next section is and let's just get right to it. Okay, so, you remember seeing this? What is it called? Fibonacci, or something or whatever. Look at the fancy equation at the bottom. Guess what, folks? That's too complicated. And when everybody talks about composition they bring up that darn spiral thing. I don't even know once if I've ever used that or even thought about it, but I guess it's the thing to do when you talk about composition. Bu...

t let's not think of that at all. Let's simplify the process, okay? And so I say you need to go and see your compositions as shapes, okay? So when you look at your composition, you're looking for shapes, and you place that subject in the most in the middle of the most obvious shape and you're gonna create impact. And so what you want to do with your composition is when somebody sees your photo, immediately, bam! The subject's right there. There's no looking at it and go, "Whaaa. Where's the subject? Oh, there it is down there?" That's not creating impact. As soon as a person looks at your photograph you want to hit 'em hard and say, "Bam! Look at this." And so that's how you have to think of when you're arranging your compositions is that you want your idea to come out extremely, like, immediately. And this is one of the ways that's gonna help you do it. And so what I say is looking for that "Scott Spot", right? So let's just get right into it and show you some examples. So let's take, for example, this picture that I did in New York, right? Central Park. Now, do you see the spot immediately where I put the subject in? And they just stick out and pop right there? Boom! You see the shape. So as I was looking and walking around this beautiful park, I looked up those stairs and I go, "There's a Scott Spot right there". Bam! Let me put my couple right there. And let me pose them in a way that kind of fits that spot too. And so, immediately, you can see the impact of that. Okay? So now let's get on to my not-so-great family portraits. Okay? So this is my family. My two girls and my two nieces and we're out there in Hawaii and this is the last night and my wife wants me to take some pictures of them, so I take this picture and, you know what, it's okay and not great. But, let's analyze the shapes and see if we can make it better. So, the horizon is the easiest way to see two shapes, right? There's the top and then there's the bottom, okay? And so when the heads are real close to the line of that shape it's to going to be very impressive because that line is going to distract the eye. So what you try to do is keep those heads in the middle of the largest shape and the largest shape, of course, is at the bottom. But, question is, can I change my perspective to make the top shape larger? Yes, right? If I lower my camera view. So here's a next photo, it looks a lot better. Why is that? It's, well, one: I created a silhouette. So whenever you create a silhouette, you want to show an interesting shape and so I posed them in a way where it's more interesting. And I took a lower perspective to make that shape larger. And so your eye immediately goes to that top shape now and then their heads are more in the middle so it has more impact, right? Now, so let's look at more examples. Now, let's take this other picture where I messed up. What's distracting about this picture, right? You can see the top shape. I put the head right where the line was. And it's very, very distracting. Let's go back, see that? That's very, very distracting. And so can I change my perspective to put them in the bigger shape? And what's the bigger shape? On the bottom. So what can I do? Well, do not place the heads on the border of the shape, which I just did. So if I raise my camera angle, I can put their heads, now, in the middle of the largest shape. And it makes it for a cleaner images and you see the subjects quite quickly when you do that. Okay, so you can see that right there. Heads in the middle of the largest shape. And so what are these two things about raising your camera and lowering your camera. When you raise your camera angle, when you take a high camera angle, you are showing depth, right? So, isn't it, we do that too, we'll take like a two hour hike up to the top of the mountain. So what? We can have a fabulous view. So we can see the depth of the beautiful city or whatever the landscape that we're looking at. Same thing when we raise our camera angle and we have a higher position, you're gonna see more depth and so when you want to emphasize depth, take a higher camera position. Now, opposite of that, when you're lower, what does that accentuate? That accentuates height. So when you want to maybe give somebody a larger-than-life kind of hero feel, you may take a lower angle so you can make them seem like they're a little bit larger than life or you're having the people jump and so forth. And so look at this photo, right? They're jumping, but they're bam! They're right in the middle of that shape, right?

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.