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Essential Skill #6: Composition - Rule 2 - 4

Lesson 19 from: Real World Lighting: Advanced Techniques

Scott Robert Lim

Essential Skill #6: Composition - Rule 2 - 4

Lesson 19 from: Real World Lighting: Advanced Techniques

Scott Robert Lim

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Lesson Info

19. Essential Skill #6: Composition - Rule 2 - 4


Class Trailer

Day 1


Course Introduction


What Photographers Should Know


Lighting Gear Box


My Camera Gear


Understanding the Magic of Flash


Shoot: Essential Skill #1 - Lighting Positions


Essential Skill #2 - Bright Light Situations


Lesson Info

Essential Skill #6: Composition - Rule 2 - 4

Rule number two how many rules does I freaking have? Well ninety three shoot I got to speed it up with some was with okay, we're going okay, fine forget it and elements that enhance this hour actually that was the longest rules, so don't worry about we're going to flat add elements that enhance the story okay, so you look around and let's say you're in china and you want to make it obvious that you're in china? Well, I don't even know what that says, but it says banquet room I her so I don't know what it says the chat room party maybe they know I don't know what it says but it's chinese so it gives the field off where I wass right? So I just looking for a little detail, right? Where says china to me? Oh, well, we were eating lunch in this area, okay and cycle well, this kind of pattern says china and the red said shaina like that here and let me just add a little bit back there to it. Okay, so I have a little bit back there to help center her right? I'm using that backlight technique b...

ecause it's in blogger lighting, blowing some flash with a gel behind it to give its an interest, but I'm using that sign to add to the story if I took that sign away then it makes a difference, right? Ok, that is a rule. Look at your composition. Does it matter if you have that object or don't have that object? Everything should count that's. What great composition is you? Sometimes you need to look at very expensive high and advertisements in fashion magazines or in glamour magazines or women's magazines. What, you need to look at movies with that huge budget? Why it's? Because they're take, they have all the money in the world. They khun take the time to set it up, right and every element in that scene, every element in that magazine ad means something that they debated on that little tiny nail polish in the back of the do I want that there's that should we put it there or not? Right? Maybe ten hours of thought has gone into whether or not that element should be in there, and you can learn how to compose from that. So it's and I think I also learned a lot. Well, it was a good and a bad. I just I like to watch a lot of movies, and I'd like to see the lighting from it, but movies, air filmed. What landscape? So if you wanna learn composition that's, why you can write off every single movie that you see because it's a learning thing right? And maybe that's the reason why I flunked out of college because I watch too many movies, but anyways it was a good get in a bad okay signs, right? Okay, so I had this idea we're in the vancouver chinatowns like, hey, why don't you sit in there? We'll get this guy to come out and like shot ah, you cut your hair because he's wearing that little chinese outfit and everything, you don't just pretend you can reach id's and your pick up this magazine and read it right. It adds to its a little detail that adds that extra to where you are. Okay, so look at this photo here if I took either one of these elements out of that element out well with that photo be nothing right it's they tell a story together now when you can create compelling stories by having elements there that must be in there you got something because you have to have those elements in there to tell the story, and if you take one out it's not the same, then you know you're on just something you're hitting on something that this's good there's, not anything extraneous to it at all here's a shot one of my favorite shots was I did I was doing this job and I had some time to spare in new york I was just walking around and I like tennis and so a sitting there on the grass and I took this shot with a simple point and shoot camera, but I liked it because had the foreground here. Good looking couple, you know where you are? Where are u u? S open, rockefeller center, new york city. So it sets the mood. You feel something there, right up shoes, they're off, they're right. You feel like you want to be here. It emotionally makes you feel something. That's what good photography. It actually comes down to the emotion of it. And so how you compose things? How you set it up? How? What? The information that you give it all attributes to that emotion and even the lighting two okay signs, here's, another sign, right? I was just in morocco lately, right? I've had to get that sign in there, but it was an arabic or something. I don't know, but it tells me I'm not in los angeles somewhere different sign, right? We were eating in a place in hong kong and have a huge neon sign like that. This is drawn me. I kept looking at that signing had to do something with it, I gotta gotta figure something out, right, and so comes with an idea and it what has the lines? The window panes have the lines there that leads you see it right there's a play between these two and lead your eye right out of it okay signs here another sign okay, props can also add it whatever it is just a little bit of a fan is no big deal, right? Another thing could be is just when you see something that is intrinsic to that culture these colors right? I saw a lot of this like in jamaica had that feel so that's why I put her over there the dog just happened to be there but there's a lug a lot of dogs running around there so it has that jamaican feel to it so you use it right here. Okay, this is just these surfer dudes just light on there for me I had to go to the effort to make that happen. So what does that mean that's like calling up my cousins say hey, coming surfer guys that could model for us right? Knowing about this location here having them you know, paddle out there in there it was actually just a kind of ah cement pier that was kind of near the water and sometimes the water depending on high tide it actually covers it and you can't walk over that's why you're so that's why it looks like I'm surfing there but I'm not that actually that piers only a few feet from the water but I didn't have tilt bill back then but I was on my stomach taking the shot to look like as if I was there right and so you make it happen so you take this shot without them you go hey that's beautiful there how can I make it better so let's hey let's, get a surfer guy out there have an idea can make it happen see that? Don't wait for you know what? This is it when you're beginning photographer you are reactionary photographer what is that? You know what's a reactionary photographer? What do I mean by that? Yes, what said react to the scene yes right react to the scene but as you get better and if you want to create your signature style reacting to the scene ain't good enough I want you to create what is in your mind and when you start doing that, you're going to realize that the photography that those photos that you actually thought about and had an idea those are the ones that you're going to love because it's your signature style now when you start putting those ideas and you work, you start creating a signature style to it because it's more fun oh you are if you're dependent on things happening to take a picture his average to me it's not showing me who you are I want to see your idea and that's going to trust sent trans hand and is going to separate you from that okay, iconic landmarks right? So you're in areas take a cannick landmarks that's important how to do that but then you need to know how to do the lighting to do that because what happens if you're at thehe cannick line I iconic landmark and if at night time you got to know how to create your life but same thing and all those together um here's the transamerica building in san francisco of so I wanted to kind of capture that but also I wanted to feel like I was in chinatown so I had you know I like that combination they're letting a person know where I am if I shoot portrait and I'm not just doing a straight approach it of that person I always dupe up and down and I put this person small in the bottom of the frame why? So I can use my compositional skills to add other elements to tell the story okay, so try it if you've never done that before, turn your camera in portrait mode but put the person down here ok also you can get the light closer to them so that's why I do it a lot so there's two reasons work so there they're standing there, right? You know, you have a subject here, I turn it up, I come in close now I'm just shooting them in the corner and I can get now. My person holding light could be right here three feet within them, okay? And then I can tell the rest of the story up there now, let's say I'm shooting wide and I'm going back and shooting the whole thing. Holy crap! Now my person has to stand this far back this I was three feet here and now I'm standing six feet here. How many stops of light did I lose two stops alight and if it's a bright, sunny day whoa that's going to be tough to really like them up without being at full power, right? So I just chop them off and I shoot it here and then I get the light closer allows me to get the light closer to the subject shooting halfway so that's what? I do a lot. Okay, so this is another thing you're kind of in blah lighting and using the composition here, right? But it's an iconic scene again twenty five photographers walking around who, how many photographers has shot the loop before? I mean millions, probably, but I actually haven't seen anybody do this actual pose there, right? Because you're working it you're just not there waiting for something happened. You're thinking of something how can I make this? How can I set this person up? Okay, all right. Rule number three create impact by creating a central idea and then that idea everything should enhance that other idea. Okay, but you have to figure out what your idea. So a lot of times when I'm looking at a photo, I say to myself, especially in a critique I say to myself, what do they want to convey here? What are they going after? And if I feel confusion in the photo, it wasn't made clear enough you have to be have a direct of kind of vision or direction of the photo and it has to be evident to your viewer and if we're kind of like, what what's going on here, are you showing the beauty of the world? Oh, you show your landscape, but I'm not quite sure what's going on here that's gonna lose impact so you need to have central idea first bam hits you and then all the other elements around it kind of, uh complimented, right? So here we're at verse I I'm paris, right? And so we're in this area where all they're all doing boats and so uh, you know, everybody's taking pictures here, right? But what is evident here right what is the central focus right here it's the boats right the central idea of this is votes of the lakes I made the boats big so you would see that first and then look over there right so I would take a picture like this right and if I ever go back there to do you know what where do you think I would place the couple right? Is this worse? Well is this postcard ish? It can stand alone by itself if I put the couple right in here wouldn't that be amazing I actually have some negative space to pop them off too because I'm had a higher angle so if I ever go back to this location or if I was just with my family here but if I was shooting it professionally right and I had some models of what I would look around shoot this in my camera oh, this kind of looks like a postcard yeah, I could see that. Okay, great. We'll put the couple right there see how that works at the kind of work it first and then see where it's going to go okay um which image is stronger and why yes stand up and read on the brown because you're starting with the dark spot and she's contrast ng out of it right you start it's less clutter right? I'm conveying the idea better here red dress clean right there's some lines leading to her because basically I did the same thing I'm going to my old tricks again and lighting it off to the side it's almost a freakin same pose what scott do something different here right it's the same thing but this has more impact because that doesn't translate there's something going through her head there she looks nice and all but I can't it doesn't pop it doesn't hit you where's your central idea you get stuck in a hallway with my looking up here oh yeah right there here that's it so you've got to train your eyes actually it's hard to find clean backgrounds in the real world that set you up it's hard it takes work it seems like oh keep it simple keep it simple but it's actually hard to keep it simple to find those little areas where there's nobody's at and all that kind of stuff ok so one choose clean backgrounds creates base for your subjects that's how you're going to make that central idea is a clean area for your subject eliminate competing elements you saw that other photo that there was there's competing elements there was wires going across there is like a bunch of just clutter there that was preventing you from really having that subject pop even though you know it was kind of interesting but it was just one of those that that's well I could you showed me that like something that that photo I d well that's ok, I would go. I would see that other photo go oh, yeah I like that hitting me right and then pay careful attention to horizons where it's leading across the hit and I actually see that a lot so when I go toe you know, when I'm doing a workshop or whatever and I always telling the students hey, come up to me, shoot something and let me see it because you're gonna have a chance to re correct we corrected if I see it again so they'll shoot in the company to go home now. Okay, that's looks great. I like that. But you know what? That thing running right through their head can you repeat get a lower angle or a higher angle and get that other way? Oh, yeah. Ok, that's great. I see that constantly constantly because it's just so concentrating on the lighting you don't see that and that's the last thing that you think about, okay? It takes a lot of thought to create this that clean background just remember it doesn't come easy. It takes work to find that little space where that for that subject should be okay, this is an example of that that's why I had to stand up against that railing because I saw this clean spot here then I said, well, you know what it's kind of like at a corner because I can see some depth this way and I definitely got some depth this way and I see something that adds to where I'm at so it gets that feeling of where it is I'm placing her smaller so I could have this depth of this column tio kind of represent the massiveness of this place if I shot or just tight like this well, with this show I wanted to show the the majestic I kind of feel of being at the louvre was it like to be at the loof paris, right? Well, it's massive it's big it's huge right? And so uh but I had to pick that clean decca guess what she had to climb up there I had to climb up there it takes effort it's just not going flow in front of you got to make a little bit effort to find it depp tells a better story so whenever you see something and add depth you're adding more elements to it tells a better story yeah, I had a question with the lighting on this I know we're talking about composition, but regarding the lighting are you still because of the full body? Are you having a light? You know, good question here I'm using natural light it naturally when you're under overhang okay, when you're under overhang, that light will come in this way. Look at the highlight on the stairs, but that shows you that light is coming in this way. See the highlight in darkness there light is coming in this way knows towards the like and so that's. Another reason why I chose that. Because I could see the highlights and the depth I'm was looking for. That contrast contrast of lighting makes things interesting. So if you see that somewhere because yeah, that might work somewhere, right? You set it all up. Ok? Good question. Right knows towards the light. Ok. Like I said, sometimes you have to raise or lower your camera angle. Right. So this is big ben here. If I was shooting her at a normal height, her head would be close to this. See that? Can you tell that I'm shooting at a lower angle? The reason why I did that was to raise her head out of that area there, but you have to be conscious of it. Here's. Another situation where I liked the skyline, so I had actually stand on the table on the bench. There was like, a eating a picnic bench there, but I had to get on top of it, it's like the completely separator from the skyline here. And um the actually the issue could okay let's look at that world where was the light coming from? How do you can can you tell where the light is coming from? From the shadow's yes, right. You look at the highlights and you go oh, the light was coming this way so obviously somebody's got to be standing here and adding light in that way because if he was a building this would be all shadow here. Okay, so it was natural light here and then hitting it with light here so you could see that or naturally when she would look like this building shadow there. Okay, um see that taking extreme angle so not only I can and then I'm using this is a good technique to use actually haven't done this in a while but I put three flashes here, so I had one here one here one on the ground coming up that's why isn't her skin looks like it's kind of glowing whenever you see that it's up like so and I just wanted to like the drama in the contrast to me I was in this background and I wanted that so no matter where she is she's looking this way she's looking that way whatever I got a shot and she can just move and flow so a lot of times when you're kind of struggling with somebody and you can't get the right pose if you just make them move then it frees up something and you might get something and it starts something there and then if you see something great you go hold it. Wait I like that really hit the rewind button a little bit and then tweak it and use your portraiture skills to fine tune it and make it nice and I do that a lot give me some action to give me some ideas then when you give me an idea and I see it stopped rewind button let's move it back all let's turn your face this way let's bring this light in right here on weight. That would be great if she's holding the flowers bring it in right? But some sort of action first gives me an idea and then fine tune it so that's what? That from a lighting perspective that's what I'm doing here but I'm shooting at a lower angle because I really loved those clouds and I wanted you to see that right? Okay, so impact and wow allowing the butor to immediately recognize the central idea and all the other elements enhance that main idea we see the brightest and the sharpest things first okay, so just remember there must be a new emotional response to the image ok, you must see the brightest the sharpest things first and that's what you kind of look at if you make everything sharp which I know that photographers do that your compositional skills must be excellent day because you're making everything sharp in there so you have to have really strong compositional skills from it to make the I go where you want it to go why do you think people love shooting wide open at eighty five millimeters? One point two or whatever right is because it's easy it makes that subject sharp and it blurs out everything so you that subject is bam it hits you first and you see that right? But the problem with photography like that all the time it's not giving any other information to enhance the story the story becomes simply the person all the time you don't see the background a lot because you're blurred out it's everything is blurred out all the time right? So uh you can don't live on that all the time because you want to show more elements that that kind of tell you what the story is okay rule number four let's see where we at let's pick the pace up here plots and subplots foreground and background we talked about this a lot of story within a story and so the main idea is you're using a foreground with something and then background was something else to add to that story right she's dancing there's somebody else back there what do you think I did for lighting here because this was in a blogger situation? Well, you see they're lighting lies yeah, I added another flash back there just to fire it this way just to open it up sometimes I like to use flash just open it up and to create some contrast because it's in a block area there okay foreground background foreground background right? Try to tell a story oh, wait a second we just broke up but he's walking away from me but some of my heart still loves him, right? We're trying to create this story and by what you do with these elements it's a story right? I don't have to be obvious about everything I'm you know I'm shooting that okay that's it that's the central focus because it's big in the picture and then you see them I don't like those photos where you know you've got a pups couple opposing and then you just see the flowers right by them and then the photographer shooting way over there right? You just see the flowers on the ground and then you see them that doesn't really do it for me it's better if you put the flowers really close to the camera and then have them blurred out in the background because it makes it obvious make the foreground and the background obvious because you want you're organizing the viewing order of your viewer right of the person looking at you you have to organize it so you have to make it obvious make it obvious that you want them to see this first and then that a lot of people don't write and so that's what you have to learn how to do ok, same thing a lot of a lot of people do this now eyes I make them kiss when they're coming down the aisle instead of right up they're well they do that too, but I made him kiss again because now I could get the people looking back at them smiling, taking pictures foreground background this foreground background like that right tell you immediately where you are oh, this is paris eiffel tower but that's interesting how do you know kids just hang up out here after school and just like go to sleep I thought that was really interesting, right? So but you're using foreground background foreground background just not showing the eiffel tower by itself but there's something else that that kind of describes the area of it note saddam right? They always have these birds there people feeding them foreground that she's small isn't she see that put small what? Because then I can see everything else even though his portrait foreground background same thing okay put two significant and separate images together

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Crazy Stupid Light Review
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide
Final Exam
Going Big on a Tiny Budget - HD

Ratings and Reviews

Dan Frumkin

I read several reviews on this site which gave me hesitation to buy this course. Nonetheless, I pressed on. Now I have a suggestion for those considering parting with their cash. Before you buy, go to any of Scott’s galleries online. If you can shoot at Scott’s level move on. If you cannot see the artistry in Scott’s work, move on. If you cannot conceive of the technical proficiency Scott has with flash, move on. But if you are mortal photographer that desires to improve your work, compare your personal portfolio to Scott’s. He wins awards for good reasons. Invest the time and money. You will be amply rewarded. Real World Lighting: Advanced Techniques is worth every penny. So is Crazy, Stupid, Light. I purchased both and now use Scott’s advice and techniques daily. Plus, he provides a good dose of inspiration and humor. Scott is an awesome professional, fantastic photographer and a wonderful teacher.


I already own Lim's class, "Crazy, Stupid Light" as well as two of his Strobie 230 flashes with transmitter (in addition to my Canon speedlight). I appreciate being able to get into lighting with flashes and equipment that costs much less than Profoto lights etc. that I couldn't afford yet. Lim has a very organized and energetic teaching style. He is a great speaker in that he is excited about what he is doing and seems to love to help others learn how to be successful with their lighting. He is very animated and funny and has the right blend of being confident yet self-effacing and admits his mess-ups during class. I find him very engaging and interesting. If you have less than $500 or $600 to spend on lights, but want to start adding lighting to your photo shoots, he is a great place to start.

a Creativelive Student

This class was fantastic! I've always opted for the easy way out when it came to lighting my subjects, usually resorting to using just natural light and a reflector even though I always have my lighting kit with me. I learned in this class how creating my own light can be the easiest way to get the results I want. It's much easier than trying to make the natural light do what I want it to do. Scott's passion for photography and teaching are evident, and his commitment to the success of his students is amazing. I definitely recommend this course for photographers at any level. I came away with many ideas on how to build upon the lighting tips presented here to make it my own. Thanks Scott Robert Lim!

Student Work