Class Introduction and Composing the Shot
So, let's get going. I got so much, I'm literally giving you a day lecture, in 90 minutes. So, we got to get on this. We're going to have a lot of fun too. You know, if you feel like your photos don't have enough wow in them, it's usually because you're not completing the cycle of having good lighting, good posing, and good composition. You've got to have all three, to give you that oomph image. And so, that's why photography is so hard. It's going to take you years to master each of those, but I'm going to give you some clues so you can do it in 90 minutes, and be amazing. And then next year, you'll be here teaching, and I'll be sitting down there. How's that? Okay, so let's get going on it, cuz we've got a lot to cover, like I said, you've got to master all of these things. Composition, posing, lighting, and even post processing. That's all together, and you're only as good as your weakest link. So, you've got to get good at all these categories, okay? So let's start off with composi...
tion. I know you've heard a ton of things about composition, which is great, but I am completely opposite, because I'm a simpleton, okay? And what have I figured out, a revolutionary way to see your compositions, and creating visual impact, is a very simple solution, okay? So what you do, is you have to see your compositions as shapes, and you're identifying these shapes. And simply put, you look for the largest shape, and you put your subject's head as close as possible to the middle of that largest shape, and you're going to get something that is pretty good. Let me demonstrate this shape. So, the easiest shape to see, is a horizon, right, because there's a top and a bottom, and let me start off with my terrible vacation photos of my girls and my nieces, okay? So I'm out there in Hawaii, and my wife's like, you take pictures of everybody else, but you don't take any of our family, so you're taking pictures of our family. I'm like, okay, the reason why I don't take pictures of our family is because they don't listen to me. Anyway, so we had a big old argument, and whatever. So, I take this average, ho-hum picture of the sunset, and I'm doing a silhouette, and if you were at my last lecture I said, when you do a silhouette, what did I have to create? A shape. That's a big glob, that's not a shape there. And if you notice their heads are right, not, that's the smallest shape, and their heads are not right in the middle of it, and so it's not creating impact because you're just getting lost with things, right? So, how do I make that shape on the top larger? You can change the perspective of your shot. So, what I did was get my tilt screen out on my camera, because I have a Sony A9. I get lower, it's almost on the ground. Now I'm creating a larger shape above them, and I'm creating more of an interesting silhouette. It's still not good, because they're not really listening to me. It's always their fault, not mine, by the way. See, it's a larger shape now. Right? And then we have the smaller shape below. It has higher impact, okay? Heads in the largest shape. Now we went over to the black sand beach. Terrible, right? Look it, I'm not perfect. I know you think I might be, but I'm not perfect, okay? Head's right through the horizon. Yeah, I got a shape going, right? And so I've got two options, am I going to go lower, am I going to go higher. On this particular photo, to make it cleaner, my composition, don't place the heads on the border of the shape. That's a no no. Don't place the heads on the border of the shape. I chose to raise my camera higher, and place them in the larger shape. Now, what's the difference between taking a high angle versus a low angle? This is important for composition. When you take a higher angle, you are trying to accentuate depth, right? In this picture, I want to show you the depth of this beautiful ocean, that we have, and how great it is. When you take a lower angle, on the ground, you're accentuating height. You are giving a person more of a hero feel, right? This case, I'm shooting higher to create that depth. Bam, look it, right in the middle there, right? That's why it has clean. I want your compositions real clean, alright? Okay, what did I say a low angle does? Shows height, so whenever somebody is doing this jumping type of thing, right, you got to take a low angle, look like they're jumping, like they're Michael Jordan here. They're higher, and I was at a black sand beach. Has anybody been to a beach with black sand? I think that's pretty rare, right? So I wanted to capture that also, so that's why I put it on the ground, to capture both of those things. But look, it's clean. You immediately see them, because, bam, they're in the middle of that shape. You can't help but look there. That's what creates visual impact, is when you look at a picture, and you know, bam, immediately you see that subject. You're not like, oh wait, it's behind some trees and stuff. Ahhh, I see it there. That's a no good picture. Great pictures, you see it right away. That photographer is communicating what they want you to see. So, let's keep it moving here. Now, to make greater compositions, not only do you have shapes, but you have to use foreground and background. Put something of significance, in the foreground, which is my family, and put something of significance in the background. Anybody been to Honolulu, Hawaii? What's one of the most iconic images of Honolulu, Hawaii? Does anybody know? It's Diamond Head, which is that mountain head, that mountain in the background. That is like one of the key logos, I mean iconic images, you see that all over Hawaii. So now I have two things of importance, foreground and background, making the composition even stronger. I'm just starting out with this basic stuff. Family photos. But now let's get into my real work. Well, I don't want to say my family photos aren't real work, but let me just show you what I shoot most of, okay? Do you see the shape that I put the subject in? It's clean, right? Now, what else did I add, with this shape, With this composition here? What else do you see, besides a clean background? You see ocean, right? Doesn't that tell more of the story of where the person is? I could have take a great picture, and I could have just, like, showed that, and that would have been okay, but it wouldn't give you a sense of where you are. So, a lot of my techniques when I'm out shooting, I'm looking for, like, a billboard, and then I'm looking for some depth behind them, that tells more of the story of where they're at. And it's an easy way to find exactly where you can put your subject. This simple technique that I use a lot. So now you see, oh okay, she's at South Beach, Miami, I get it. You see depth and depth always makes your pictures more interesting, okay? So, there's a shape there. There's a shape there. I put her right in the middle, very easy peasy. Now it gets a little bit more complicated. You're here. Where can I find the shapes? What can I do? And so I see a bunch of shapes. I could put her back against that wall, right there, but is that the largest shape in the picture? No. So, it's a little bit crammed. Yeah, I could get it to work, but because it's the smallest shape, your eye's not going to immediately go there. I could, here's the largest shape. I got to get her head, and then make sure that she's in a clean spot. You immediately see her, if I put her right there. And so that was my choice. Here again, I'm using the leading lines, right? I see these beautiful leading lines, and leading right to the subject, and I'm looking for shapes. There's a shape, right there in the water. Do I want to put my subject in the water? I could, but then you're worried about your equipment getting wet, and your lighting, and the last time I did that I literally got electrocuted by my flashes, so I'm a little bit gun shy about going with my flashes into the water now. I barely got feeling in my thumb now. So then I go, well there's other shapes right here, but then I'm contending with those tiki lamps, and do I want to Photoshop all those out? Ehh, no. Let me find a cleaner spot, okay, this is my solution right here. So I'm going to lean her against that rail, I'm going to put her right there. I can get my lighting right there, if I need to be, and then, it's a great shot, even though it's the smallest shape, this works because there is a leading line, right leading to her. That helps your mind organize where that subject is, is the leading line, so therefore I can put her in that small space because I have supporting elements that feature where I want to put her. Everything is pointing to her, so it's okay to put her in a small space, get it? Here's another subject. I'm taking a lower angle, and I've got a shape there I could use, but I want to use that upper sky, and I'm taking a low angle at this point, and bam, putting her right in the middle there. Oh, also, by the way, that umbrella is also a shape, and also makes you force your eye, without lighting, to look at the face. Because, that's another element in the picture. OK, let's go to the Great Wall of China. So you see the Great Wall. It's a leading element, right to my subject, and I put her right in there, right? I also put the umbrella higher up, because I want your eye to look across the entire screen. So I put an element right up in towards those mountains too, to get you to look all across the entire frame. Here's another situation that you'll have to use, is when you're shooting landscapes. Why did I put this subject in the sun? I could have put them in the shaded area, but why did I choose to put them in the sun? Does anybody know, why? Yes.
In the clouds?
OK, right, well sorta. If I put them in the sun, okay, they hired me to go to the Amalfi coast, Italy, to shoot them. What do you think they want in the background in at least one of their pictures? The Amalfi coast, right? So the sun is shining on the Amalfi coast, and so I want those exposures to match, because I'm using natural light here. The exposure that's on the Amalfi coast is the same exposure that is on my subjects. I just need to point the nose towards the light, like we did in my last lecture, and I place them there, and boom, you can see both. If I put them in the shade, then I've got to use exterior lighting or a reflector or something to get light on them, because it won't match. So that's why I put them in the sun. Right, there's a spot there. I didn't decide to do that. That little area right there is my only choice, so I have to work with that. Here again, at the Paris, and I see a beautiful little area there, stand up on there. Here's a little tip, when shooting in Paris, and you go to the Louvre. Go on a Tuesday. Why? It's closed. There's going to be a lot less people walking around. So there you are, on Tuesday. There's still hundreds of people around, but I got, literally, 30 seconds before more people are going to be walking through, so I got to make a decision, what do I do? Here's my spot, I find my spot on that wall, and don't you see depth behind me? So it's that same theory. Give me a little backdrop, let me see some depth. She's clean. You're going to see her first, nose towards the light. Right, bam, it's all posed for me. I got a clean spot. I show depth on the left, and I show depth on the right, and it's going to be a beautiful shot. I guarantee you, right, I guarantee you, if you just use this technique. I could have had her head way up in the sky, but I had to pull her closer to me, or she would cover the pyramids. That's part of where she's at. That doesn't work, I could have her walk all the way around there and be in that spot, and I could do something beautiful, but there's thousands of people walking by. I don't guarantee that's going to be open, like how it is right now. This is a magic moment. I have to seize it, because nobody is walking by. So, I got to think quickly. Okay, so that's the only logical choice for me to take a shot, right there. Okay, here we go, in Australia. Can you see, are you starting to see the spots in the locations, and where I'm putting them, right? I've got a couple choices. Here, I could put her here. That would certainly work, but I chose to put her here, okay. Now, and bam, right there. Clean spot, I can see her. Place subject in the middle of the shape, not at the edge. Right, right in the middle. Okay, now, I flipped it around, and I do this because, remember, I like to show depth. So this, to me, gives you a better feeling of where she actually is, because I love the beautiful lake that is behind her, and I want to feature that. So I put her, those are my camera settings, not that you even care about that. Here's some different shapes, right? And I'm putting her in that shape, right there. Again, finding a little billboard, showing depth behind. I want you to look at your photos. If you are shooting a lot of portrait shots, right, up and down, and you're filling that frame with a person all the time, that is a subtle cry of saying, I don't know composition very well. Because, why, it's very easy to fill up the frame when you're shooting portrait, and not have any other elements included. Once you turn the frame sideways, and shoot landscape, you're shooting the person, and you don't know what to fill on this other side, and so, you're not as skilled in your composition. So I want you to look at your photos. How many photos are this way, and how many photos are this way? You should have both, and if you're having problems, you got to work on your composition. Mostly, all these photos that I showed you, are landscape. It's because I know how to incorporate a lot of elements in my shot. And that's what's going to be good composition, is when you can organize all the elements in your photo. Okay, here again, I split it up, and notice I'm going for the shapes here. How easy it is. Bam bam. Here's another shape. The background was actually all white, but I had this vision in my head of color, and so I just did some clipping paths and whatever, and I created colors for each of the sections so they could pop out. But do you see her right in the middle of the shape? She's clearly evident, right there. If you're going to do a beautiful landscape shot, a big epic wide shot, where you make your subjects real small. This is the problem, when I critique a lot of work, is that, the problem when you try to do these big huge epic landscapes, I can't find your subject quickly. Where are they, like, oh, there they are. That's a problem. That's a shot that will not work. So when you're making your subject real small in the photo, they've got to be clean. They've got to just, you've got to see them immediately, or you're going to lose the impact of that shot. Here again, you see the shape that her head's in, above? Bam, it's right there. Right, where her legs, her legs are even in a shape. If I had, like rocks in her background, and part of the background of her legs, it wouldn't be a clean shot, so I had to make sure that everything was clean there. OK, you see the shape that she's in, right there? What, that's the same technique. Find a billboard, find depth behind that tells the story of where you're at. It's a very simple formula of finding something, and I just happened to catch this jogger walking by, in a yellow shirt, which I thought was great. OK, do you see the shape, that I put her in? The sky, her head's right there. You can't miss it. Yes, there's a lot of texture. There's a lot of detail. I kind of HDR'd the post processing of it, but I got away with it because I put her in a clean shape. Now, you're going to try to do the same thing, and do a lot of detail, and a lot of structure, and texture, and you put her behind something that's not clean, it's not going to work, because there's too much texture. Your eye doesn't know where to go. Same thing, shape. What is it, it's the same technique. You got a billboard, you got a thing, you put her there, got something of significance in the background. What's that? Eiffel Tower, alright? It gets to be ridiculous after a while. Now this gets a little bit harder. The reason why I had to come around the corner, because this is a very famous bridge in Paris, and there are thousands of people walking on the other side of those lamp posts. Thousands, all the time. So this is the challenge of environmental portrait, is you got to walk around and find little areas that are secluded, but still give you the flavor of where you're at. And I found this little area around the corner, and I could put her head right in that little space there, take the shot, and still, you see her immediately. This shot, obviously, you can see the shapes that she's in, right there. And then you can see the shape. I'm shooting up at a higher angle. I'm getting two things of significance in there, and I'm putting them in a very very clean spot. So you could see it immediately. Here, I'm using the stairs, as a little area for me to showcase it, and then in the background, I have something of significance. Where's that? Exactly, that's Notre Dame. That's where the hunchback lives, right there. Okay, now, here's a situation where I found this beam here, and I'm using that beam, and I know this is natural light, but guess what, I under exposed it. Go to Crazy Stupid Light and order that, and you'll learn how I did this picture, because that's my background, okay? So I underexposed the entire image, and lit them up with flash so there I decluttered my environment with light so I could just get a clean spot of them that looks much better. So here again, you can look for flowers, you can look for colors and things. I was doing this wedding, and then I saw all this sea of yellow. I mean there was a little bit of trouble, negotiating through the brushes, and the trees, and getting right where I wanted them, but hey, that's part of photography. They paid you money. They're going to do what you tell them to do, so just tell them to do stuff, right? I saw all this yellow, and I go, aww that's going to be beautiful. Let me just throw them in that sea of yellow there. Here again, do you see the leading lines, up to them in the shape where I put their heads? Clean, bam. Can't miss them. I'm using something in the foreground, and something in the background. Big tree, there it is. This beautiful sky, there it is. Beautiful ocean. I've got Diamond Head in the background. Do you see the subject immediately? Yes. Because I'm using that blank space around her to just really make her stick out. There again, same thing. I'm finding a billboard, clean spot, background. I mean this is getting boring after a while. Same thing. Same thing, I'm using the rocks this time, so I had to shoot a little bit higher, because when I'm shooting them eye level, their head went across the top of that rock there. So you're going to have to adjust your camera positions in order for you to get that, and so I'd take my tilt screen down lower so I could see, because I'm short. So, thank goodness I have a Sony camera, that I can do that with. You're not laughing but anyway. (laughter) Alright, you see the spot, right? This way I'm using foreground to make it interesting, and I'm using the ground as foreground. So you could also use the ground as a shape. The ground is a shape and you can do that. Again, easy silhouette. There's a lot of bright sun. It's very evident where those shapes are. See the shape behind her, there, right? And lot a, lot a, lot a, you get it, right? OK, depth background, right? Same thing. Same thing.