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Composition for Stills: Telephoto Lens

Lesson 34 from: The Outdoor Enthusiast's Guide to Photography & Motion

Ian Shive

Composition for Stills: Telephoto Lens

Lesson 34 from: The Outdoor Enthusiast's Guide to Photography & Motion

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

34. Composition for Stills: Telephoto Lens


Class Trailer

Bootcamp Introduction


Storytelling with Stills and Motion Overview


Elements of a Well-told Story


Storytelling in Motion


Choosing the Best Gear for Your Outdoor Project


Gear for Drones


Gear for Motion


Inside Ian's Gear Bag


General Advice for Preparation


Virtual Scouting




Permits and Permission


Model and Property Releases


Health and Fitness




Location Scouting Overview


Location Scouting in the North Cascades


Drone Introduction


Drone Safety


What Kind of Drone Should I Buy?


FAA Part 107 Test: How to Prepare


Telling a Story With a Drone


Drone Camera, Lenses and Movements


Selling Drone Footage


Why Does a Photographer Need Motion?


Establish the End User


Identify Your Audience


Build a Production Plan


Create the Story Structure


The Shooting Script


Production Quality


Composition for Stills


Composition for Stills: Landscape


Composition for Stills: Telephoto Lens


Composition for Stills: Macro Lens


Techniques for Capturing Motion in the Field


Lenses and Filters for Outdoor Photography


Capturing Landscapes - Part 1


Capturing Landscapes - Part 2


Capturing Movement in Stills


Shooting Water, Sky and Panorama


Understanding Stock


Editorial vs Commerical


Pricing Stock


Producing Stock


Shooting for Social Media vs Stock


Choosing an Agency


Assignments and Capturing Stock


Stock Photography Market


Create A Style Guide


Stock Shoot Analysis


Workflow for Selecting Final Stills


Initial Editing in Adobe Bridge


Reviewing and Selecting Motion Footage


Keeping Track of Your Story Ideas


Script and Story Structure Evolution


Editing to the Content


Music as a Character


Business Diversification


Business Strategy


Pillars of Revenue




Partnerships and Brand Strategy


Galleries and Fine Art




The Future of Photography


Q&A And Critique


Lesson Info

Composition for Stills: Telephoto Lens

compositionally. It's great to think beyond wide angle lenses and to think about what other options you have. Telephoto. 70 millimeter to 200 millimeter, maybe even 300 mil 400 mil as well as macro lenses. And how can you make those shots work? Where in the frame can you put your certain elements to Ah, make them pleasing? Cause it's not as obvious is like a wide angle where you might have waterfall rolling through or are dramatic foreground. And it's not necessarily the easiest thing to figure out. How do you piece things together, especially throughout a focus? Some are in focus and you're shooting 200 millimeters. But the truth is, telephoto lenses and macro lenses are absolute masterful tools for great compositions. So we've got this really almost idyllic wildflower patch here along the trail, one of the challenges with photographing wildflowers in general. And I think this is a little bit of, ah, walking, talking, describe if you've ever been out on the trail and you're like, Oh, ...

this is really pretty. Most people, they get their phones out and they hold him in the shoot like this. You know where I see a lot of this kind of coming in on an angle. Um that, to me is almost the worst way to show there's nothing wrong way to do it. But if you want to improve your photography, whether it's with your phone or through SLR, the one thing you're always gonna note that I dio as I like to stoop down and shoot across and at something, get down at its level and shoot at it. And then the second you do that as you look up, what do you notice? You see all of the different colors and all of the different flowers start to kind of come together, especially with the dark force in the background. It gives you an opportunity to separate them out. Now the best way to compress the scene is with the telephoto lens, and that's so you can get all of the different flowers in a single frame. And that's really what I want to do. I want to show the diversity fact that there's not just one pretty flower, but that we have red, purple, yellow, white. Now all of these different colors coming together in this lush green area with this dark, wooded background. So telephoto does that. And it does that because it takes all the elements and it compresses the minute pulls them together. You're not just zooming, you're pulling all of that in and you're adding that dimensional layer to the photograph, so I like that choice for it. When you want to do detail work, then that's when you get into the macro but shooting down and shooting across that something definitely helps add depth, and it allows you to also then with a telephoto lens, pull things out of focus. But even with your IPhone, if you're out shooting, you know, getting out and looking out across at it, you'll see me do. The exact same techniques of my IPhone is I will with my SLR the other way to do it. It's a shoot straight down, really fun with anything from the Daisy family, such as these flowers here is shoots straight down and you get a chance to really pull out all of the little almost perfect, mathematically perfect looking pedals and flowers and things that are together. So either straight down, it's really funding. Also shoot up from underneath um, or straight across at them, but I'd avoid that sort of 45 degree angle. That's very typical, because as you walk by the trail and you look at while flowers, what's the angle that you're looking at? 45 degrees? So that's the one thing you would probably want to avoid. I like this is, well, this very has a bushel effect. It's a very hard thing to capture. Another big challenge with shooting wildflowers is as you walk up to them, you're looking at one flower, and then you have a lot of green around. You know, they're kind of broken apart. Occasionally you get a cluster of them. But if you really want to show that rich density when you're looking down across at an angle, that's really what comes with a telephoto. So you want toe in general, avoid nothing. There's no wrong way to do it. But I like to avoid shooting and seeing only one pedal or one flower unless I'm shooting macro. If I want to really show the density, flowers and the beauty of them, then I want to use my telephoto lens so right now, because it's low light and this is perfect light we got some clouds up above. The light is very diffused. Even though it's low light, that's no problem. There's not a lot of wind, so I have plenty of opportunities to make images in here with a telephoto lens. I'm going to be shooting pretty shallow anyway, for the most part, so I'll get my tripod out and I'll start setting up for my first composition will begin on the bottom of the trail and sort of work my way up with my telephoto lens. So you'll notice that I'm gonna use the Mt. In the middle of the lens, maximize my stability. I'm gonna turn off the auto focus because for the most part, I'm gonna probably end up trying to pick a very particular flower to focus in on through these compositions. I don't want it to just randomly pick different parts of the frame, and that's a big compositional element. You want to control where your cameras going and you can do that without a focus and point and click and move around could be a lot faster and a lot more efficient to do it manually. I just want to make sure that you're getting that precise because we are going to be using a very shallow it up the field. So if you're unsure trying to use autofocus, maybe set your focus, point into a certain spot in the frame and then you'll know that at least you're getting that area sharpened. Focus. So gonna set my eyes? Soda is a 100. That's because I'm on a tripod. I don't need an image stabilizer, so I'm gonna turn that off. I've already turned off my auto focus and I'm gonna shoot vertically. Since everything's kind of going up, I'm gonna shoot vertically. To start there's no right or wrong. You might feel to get some good horizontal shots as well, But I'm gonna start with that. And so compositionally the challenge here is gonna be to figure out how to use every square inch of your frame again. Think of it like you're designing a room. Where do you put the couch? Where do you want to put the TV? You don't stick everything on one side of the frame. You want to move it around or once out of the room. Rather, you want to move it around so that utilizing all of the space as creatively and productively as possible. So as I zoom in, I'm kind of working the scene and could probably use a little more stability here. Someone open the tripod leg a little bit more perfect. So is the first thing that I noticed is a zoom in is these white flowers and everything else is out of focus in the background. This lens goes all the way down to F two point A, which is super, super shallow fire frame off there. And I'm not using any exposure compensation getting 1/30 of a second. But that should be fine. I might go up from to wait about 35 just to make sure that I'm not losing any sort of focus. It's pretty slow, but again, no real movement out here other than the mosquitoes. I've got those white flowers. I'm gonna try and go a layer deeper Go focus. Just pass them so that they fall out of focus. And now I'm gonna shoot the lilac in the back in the foreground. Mountain lilac. Alright, so I've got that. Now when I look at this, when I'm looking through the frame, they noticed I've got a lot of dead space at the top, and I don't wanna have this dead sort of dark area in there. I like the dark, but I wanted filled with flowers. I'm actually gonna recompose and trying put flowers and more again utilizing all of the square footage of my room. And I have been different flowers. I'm just gonna change my focus, move it around. And I'm sure I'm literally just rolling the focus ring to get different compositions because I changed the focus and new things start to become in focus. And it allows me to have different compositions, Some in a double check, See if I'm using all the square footage I am. Looks pretty great. The soft focus in the foreground. Literal. Nice. Don't really think I want a lot of depth of field, but I like that composition. So I'm gonna go up the F 11 shoot a mid Ranged up the field half second real slow. You hear it open, right? Real slow. Take a second look. A little more sharpness throughout, but it looks like something's out of focus because they're moving every now and then. Bug lands on a flower and kind of shakes it. So I'm gonna move on, keep it going. And now I want to get a little bit higher because I'm seeing that move my head around. Kind of thinking, How do I want to be? So I want to be able to see those flowers not is worried about the dark woods in the background. Now, I'm just looking for kind of a lush green background Get a little higher up a little comfortable, more comfortably still a little low. And I'm going to zoom in and again trying figure out how to use that square footage, so I feel like I'm a little far away. So what I'm gonna do is I'm actually just move right into the action. I feel like you're too close. You're probably not close enough. All right, so now I'm a little closer to the action, and I'm going to make sure I'm using all the square footage in my room to compose a good telephoto wildflower shock. I typically zoom all the way out to 70 because you don't want to try and compose it. 200 millimeters. You don't know what you're looking at. Your zoomed all the way in. I want to work my way out and push in compositionally until I'm pleased with what I see. So right now again, my eyes catching on these white flowers. And I love the fact that I have a yellow, purple and red out of focus in the foreground. And I'm able to use the whole frame to show that story of all the color that's in here. So I'm gonna take that picture manually focusing. And it looks real nice. Really get all these different dots of color. And if anything, it looks a little dark even on my screen here in the shade. But my history looks pretty good. It looks like I got a little bit more room to go brighter. So I'm gonna just use the exposure compensation go a little bit more. I've got that pyramid in the top. And that's ultimately what I'm looking for. Looking for that hissed a gram pyramid. Good exposure. Now I'm a double check my composition. I love the color. There's a lot of opportunities there. Toe pop that out, especially in post. This is a very flat image. One thing to remember, specially shooting vibrant things. You're shooting a neutral mode, potentially. Maybe you set your camera settings into that very flat, low contrast situation. You're not judging color here. You're on Lee, judging how you're using the frame and making sure that technically, you've got what you want so compositionally This is ideal in my mind. I've literally got color from end to end on all the edges and throughout all of the frame. And so that one works really well for me. So I'm gonna fire one more for safety sake, I'm gonna go, then open up a little bit more, get a little more depth of field again. More for safety sake, Just toe. Have it. And I'm gonna move again and create another composition. I'm not going to one thing. You'll notice about every composition I make and my entire process Is this working the scene idea? Don't say Oh, that's nice. I got it. I'm done. I'm gonna go home, keep working it because a lot of the time is you work through it, your mind is processing it and you're thinking of different ways and you're you're becoming more creative in that moment. And I find that most of the time almost always The compositions I like the most are the ones further along the ones near the end of my shoot. Not always in the beginning. Sometimes the stuff you get right in the beginning, is it? It absolutely happens. But the more you work is seen, the more you have time to process what you're trying to convey and the best way to do that. So compositions really come through a lot of trial and error, and again we edit at home. We don't edit in the field. We're just gonna keep capturing things here. So now I'm getting closer to my subject. I'm gonna zoom out and I'm gonna focus on something a little different. I'm gonna go back to the purple wildflowers, a lilac. I believe there mountain, my long, And what happened is I can't focus telephoto lenses to close. So I either have to back up and recompose, or what I could do is take my extension tubes, which is show in the lens and filter section of this class, and add those to my telephoto lens to separate it from the sensor which will allow me to have a closer focal range. So for some reason I want to shoot from this distance. This is the lens. This is a set up. I don't want to recompose or go get my 50. I can simply throw on an extension to board, too, and I'll be able to make the exact same thing that I'm doing right here. Work and I'll be able to focus because I've changed that focal distance with those extension tubes. But in the interest of time, I'm gonna actually just change my composition entirely. Instead of looking up this way, do the tried and true rule, which is Don't forget to look behind you and shoot the other direction. So from this angle, I'm simply just reversing my opportunities. I didn't want to shoot up one direction. I want to shoot down both directions and see what I can get. So this is simply about diversity and seeing what else I can capture won't here and how I can highlight this beautiful spot on all the wildflowers. Hope left it on with a lot of depth of field. You'll learn to listen to your shutter, and you'll already know what's happening simply by what you hear. So I'm doing what I said not to do and you can tell in my results. I'm shooting on that 45 degree angle. It's nothing all that special about this. I'm gonna recompose drop my tripod legs all the way down, and I'm getting a lot more color in my frame. I started at 70 mil, zooming in trying different focus lengths, saying How I can tell the story of all these little plants that we see here. Fire a few frames. Looks really good. Check my history, Grams. I'm gonna hit, play, play back. Hey, Info, History grams Perfect Dead center, Good exposure, Good composition. I feel good about it and keep moving on and get some variety. And really, that's all there is to it. It's just a slow process. And if you're really committed to get making great images, the key is to just spend an hour or more in a place like this. When it's diffuse light and have great conditions, just keep working it over and over and over and make all your decisions about what you want to keep. When you're finally feel like I've exhausted everything I feel creatively. There's nothing more I can do here, and you call it a wrap

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Ratings and Reviews


Ian was an amazing instructor.; very fun, enthusiastic, encouraging, and comprehensive. I hope to be able to return as an audience member for another of his classes. It is a privilege and a gift to have access via Creative Live to such a wealth of expertise. Thank you!

Cindee Still

Ian Shive is a dynamic speaker with a wealth of knowledge he is willing to share. He has had a magical path that led to his success. He touches on so many aspects of making, selling and creating images as well as how to market them and make an income from your work. It is so much fun to be part of the studio audience. The Creative Live staff are always so warm and friendly and they feed you like your on a cruise ship! Wonderful experience.


What a great class this has been. Thank you Ian Shive and Creative Live! Recently retired, I have set out to learn everything I can about photography and pursue this passion to capture the beauty in the outdoors. Creative Live has served as an amazing educational platform to help me learn everything from how to use my camera, the fundamental technicals, and learn about software and tools. This class brought it all together. At the end of this class my approach to photography and my images are different. Ian shares so much valuable knowledge that will change the way you go about taking a picture; from scouting a location, to thinking through the story and adding elements to an image to evoke an emotional response. My personal growth has been significant and I have changed to the way I approach creating an image from an Outdoor Landscape to an Outdoor Experience. Loved every minute of it, sad the class is over.

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