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Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 5 of 61

Importance of Foreground and Background


Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 5 of 61

Importance of Foreground and Background


Lesson Info

Importance of Foreground and Background

Foreground/background. So part of composition is, you want to put something in the foreground that's of significance. And you can see how I put them right below that shape. You see the ocean. There's no line going across their heads. They're clean, bam, right there. And then in the background, I have something of significance too. Anybody been to Hawaii? Right, that's Diamond Head. That's the iconic image of Hawaii. And so now I have something that's both significant in the foreground and in the background, making the photo even stronger and it makes you look at the entire photo. That's a great photograph. A great photograph is when it's composed in a way where the viewer is forced to look at the entire photo. And if there's spots in that photo where your eye just doesn't go to, then you either need to crop that out or you need to change your perspective so you don't have those dead spots in your shots. And that's all in the way you compose, foreground/background. Alright, so enough of...

my family photography, which I know you want to look at, but let's get into the real world, when I shoot for real. Well, not to say, shooting for my family is not real, but when I'm on the job, which is hot chicks in exotic locations. (laughs) Now, do you see the shapes here and how I composed it? There's one shape on the right and there's another shape, which I do as I find a backdrop. I find a backdrop, this is the easiest way to do it. Find a backdrop in your environment, and put the subject right there. And another key thing, what I like to do is I like to find that backdrop but, oops sorry- but I like to show depth in the photo too. Cause if I just took a, you know, my beautiful friend just within that backdrop that would be fine but that's just like shooting here, right? That doesn't say you're like in South Beach, Miami. So if you're a location photographer, you want to take a great shot but you want to show where you are and often it's that depth behind the backdrop that I use, 2 in 1. So I find the backdrop and wear some depth where I can show you where this person is at. And this is a simple technique that I use all the time. Now it gets a little bit more complicated. I'm taking this shot and I'm trying to see these shapes in my head. So I take- now let's analyze. Well, there's this shape over there to the left in the red, right? But if I put her against that wall, that's actually the smallest shape. Even though it will work, it's not the most obvious shape. I go, "Well, that could work" but the most obvious shape is this one and so if I take a little bit of a lower angle then I could raise her head higher in the middle of that shape and it all makes sense. Let's get to the next picture. Let's analyze the shapes here. Well, there's some shapes in the ocean but do we want to get in the water all the time? (laughs) I guess sometimes it's cool but that's very inconvenient there so ixnay on that. Also, I have this pier with some beautiful leading lines. I want to use those leading lines into my subject so I probably don't want to do it in the water. I could put them in this area here, but then I have to contend with those tiki lights and I don't know if I want to go into Photoshop and remove everyone and that's too much hassle. Let's try to find a next best shape, which was right over here in this location there. And I placed my subject there. Also because it's out and close to the end of the frame I could get my lighting just outside the frame too and so I can light my subject there. Alright, let's get to the next photo here. See how I took the lower angle, which accentuates her legs, gives her some length, and then, bam! I've got her right in the middle of the largest shape. I could put her down on the ground and that would be a nice shape for me but it's not the most obvious shape, which is right above there, dead center. Okay, let's go to the Great Wall of China. Do you see the shapes? Do you see the leading line, leading her right into that shape right there? So what I did was I put her head right in the middle of that. I had her raise the umbrella so the subject's eye will go through the entire frame. So I'm using those elements to allow the viewer to- it gives you a reason to look at every single pixel of your picture. Let's go to Italy now. And here I'm shooting on the Amalfi Coast and you could see some different shapes here. I have this one shape over here but it's in the shade and they're like 40 feet up. How am I going to get the lighting over there? That's not going to work. And so that's kind of obvious there, but I can't get to it. So here is another shape. I originally had them in the middle where that archway was but there was just some distracting elements coming above their head so I had to move them way to the corner of that balcony there where I could put them right in that small shape right there. And that was really the only location that I had, that I could put them in. Right there, to have a clean shape. So a lot of times as you're analyzing things what helps you is, you're looking at a situation. You're going, "You know what? There's really only one place that I can go and it's right there." Which speeds up the process. And now, once you know that, you can move onto other things and concentrate on the posing and the lighting, whatever, that's already solved. Alright, so let's go to Paris now. And so here I am. Here's a tip when you shoot in Paris, when you're going to go to the Louvre. Go on a Tuesday. Why? They're closed that day, and so when you go when they're closed there's a lot less people cause there's usually hundreds and thousands of people. Even there's hundreds of people at this time but I caught this moment where there's nobody. And a lot of times that's going to happen. You're going to see all these people here and go, "How can I ever get a shot off here?" But if you envision it, a lot of times the universe will open up for you and give you, like, a second to take a shot and that's literally what I had here. Just a few seconds because immediately after this shot people were walking by left and right. So, do you see the shapes? Well, there's some shapes, there's the sky. I could have put her head in the middle of that sky but I would have to bring her a lot closer to me and she would cover up those iconic images of the Pyramids so that's not gonna work, right? Then, there's a shape down there which is really cool but by the time she walks all the way down there and around the corner, and it's going to take her like three, four minutes to just get to that spot, there's going to be probably hundreds of people there. I don't have time for that and I can't guarantee that's going to be open so here was my best selection, right there. What did I do? I found a backdrop and then I had some depth to show where she is. Do you see the depth on the left of her? And so I want- that was purposefully put there so I could show you how long and kind of majestic this building is and so how far down the hallway you can view into infinity and then on the right I have the beautiful iconic Pyramids. So both of them give a beautiful setting of where she is.

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.