Recomposing for Compelling Composition


Think Like a Photographer


Lesson Info

Recomposing for Compelling Composition

all right so then when I look at a scene one of the main things that goes on in my mind is I will end up kind of inventory in the scene and I think about what in that scene is positive that could really help and add to the photograph I think about what's negative it's just not going to help in the photograph and I also think about what's neutral positive negative and neutral so in this particular shot I think these boats which have the really interesting fronts to them those are the most positive I'd really like to incorporate them what's negative is some of the trash that sitting on the shore that's here in what's neutral is the sky it's not really doing much it's not bad it's not good it's just neutral same with some of the dirt down here at the bottom where doesn't have the trash I think of that is neutral and so if I separate the image into positive elements the negative elements in the neutral ones I'm gonna try to get a composition that maximizes those positive elements makes him...

is big in the frame as I can get them so they dominate the image I'm going to try to crop out frame out of the image or blur out thie negative things and make it to the neutral just doesn't take up too much space unless I need space for headlines in the titles of publications so in this case I might recompose and really get it so the positive is maximized in the images think how can I really get that to be the main center and try to really minimize or make smaller the negatives and in this case I did end up with a good amount of neutral here but I like the way you could see that there's ah lot more boats in there here I looked out of here where hearst castle I thought the building itself was a positive that's really why I'm picking up my camera and these flowers over here great but what is negative for the people standing there unless they're engaged with what's going on then they're they're not really uh adding to the image and so I'm thinking about how can I maximize those things and so I recompose try to get that positive stuff to fill the frame as much as I possibly can he and get rid of those negatives one thing that I'll do if I'm not shooting for publication if I'm not doing it where I need headlines and I need space for text is if I end up with a lot of neutral area usually it's the blue sky and I'll think about trying to find some trees to fill that space just get under a tree and shoot up towards your subjects so that that can fill in ah lot of that otherwise neutral area was something more interesting so in this case I'm shooting straight on the problem is we have a lot of tourists you can stand here as long as you want you're going to find tourists walking in and out of that thing unless you spend on off a lot of time you're going to have the tourists we have a couple things we could do with tourist we'll talk a bit about that when we talk about shooting strategies but if I were to make them blurry just do a long exposure then that could be an interesting element it's just a blur of movement in and out of the temple instead of these very specific touristy looking people but another approach would be to goto on angle and shoot where you can't see those people I mean it here you can actually see one person's head still but that would be overly easy to retouch out in photo shop or to crop out in photoshopped later but all I did is I moved over to the side over here there's this edge of the temple that I lined up with the edge of my frame because I try to keep straight lines that are near the edge of the frame lined up with the edge of the frame unless there's a reason to draw attention there and that made it so I can get rid of those tourists but then I ended up with a lot of neutral with my sky so I might look around the scene and say is there any way I can get partially under a tree or something similar to get that to fill some of that neutral so let's look at some scenes and let's see how I actually walked around them and I've tried to figure out the best way of shooting it one come subject matter for me is I'm doing a series on vintage service stations any gas stations from like the nineteen thirties through about the nineteen fifties I've researched about two hundred of them so far around the u s and I'm slowly going around the country shooting one at a time to capture them and in the process of doing so I'm trying to get the most compelling composition of it I find it to be a fun challenge because vintage service stations almost always have a sign pumps in a building so I have three main elements that I need to incorporate and then you think about how is one element possibly overlapping another exit might merge visually I have architecture where if I tilt up I'm gonna have the converging lines where the top of the building gets smaller and that could be an issue and then I have lots of clutter in their surroundings that could be negative and I need to optimize all that stuff come up with the best composition so let's look at one example of that here's just the angle I first walked up to the building out and I had the sign up here in the front and then we have our pumps in our building but the stop sign here I made sure it wasn't touching the other sign in case I wanted to retouch it out in photo shop but I don't think that's all that exciting to me what's negative in this shot is the telephone lines that are here the modern cars that air here there's a modern soda machine here and just any junk that's around the frame what I really want to include in the image is the gas station the pumps on the sign and I'm trying to get a good relationship between the three the one problem I have in this image here the main thing is this sinus so huge compared to everything else that this feels far away so the next thing I did is I backed up the further I back up away from a subject usually the more similar in size things will feel it's when you get your camera close to something that it ends up feeling much larger in the frame and but here it just feels like I got too much negative in the image I get all these telephone lines in the house behind it is larger than the building itself in so it's kind of not the most compelling thing so I walked across the street to the other side so if you look this is where we were before I just walked over to the left side and I got this now here I liked it because first I started getting some visual contrast between the subject and its background which is one thing I always look for and that is the building itself is rather bright and you notice right behind it is something really really dark and so that makes the subject pop off of the background if I was down lower where this building touched the sky it would kind of visually merge with the sky because the brightness would be about the same and so wouldn't be is good but getting it here with these trees our kind of containing the building makes it so we have nice contrast I made sure my camera was not tilted up or down so you see the verticals on the building should be nice and straight short buildings that try to do that and I was very careful with the placement of elements in this frame if you look at this light post this v shaped area at the top do you notice it doesn't touch the building I was also very careful with where this pump appeared you notice that it doesn't half way cover up a door it doesn't half we cover up the edge instead I tried to find a relatively neutral background for it he also noticed the vertical on this sign there the light post doesn't touch the kind of sidewalk element in the distance and over here on the left side of the frame this vending machine doesn't touch the edge of the building so if I wanted to be touch it out would be a little bit easier because I wouldn't have to reconstruct the building that's behind it so I don't mind that but I'm missing the sign on the right side so all I did was pan over a little bit to get our sign and therefore I could take this image and this image and stitch them together into a panorama that give me a wider view and by doing so I don't think that's too bad of a composition and what I'd mainly need to do is do some retouching I would get rid of the telephone lines across the top so that's not too bad but that doesn't mean I stopped there because in camera it's hard to really tell until I've really moved around the whole scene it's hard to tell if really that's the best composition or not but so far that was the first one where I thought if I had to leave now at least I got a good shot so then I started experimenting mohr here's the too by the way when you stitch them together so that's the full scene nice amount of contrast between the sign in the background just need to retouch out ah phew elements but then I experimented I said well everybody else was going to experiment or see this from normal viewing height so what if I got low to the ground and I thought that looks somewhat interesting but you see the building starting to visually merge with the sky because there's not much contrast there the building feels really far away and now we have this huge area down here of neutral stuff that I try not to have dominate now if I cropped this image though in photo shop so it's right here at the base of the sign coming across if I was able to get this edge with this is the edge of the sidewalk is tow line up with the edge of the frame so it's not a diagonal and I cropped it in there that might not have been too bad so I started experimenting more here I'm using a fish islands just to see if I can give somebody different perspective didn't think it was all that successful fisheye from really low down but that building feels so far away there's so much neutral that actually this is distracting at the bottom and I tried getting up a little closer and just trying out different things this one if I cropped the bottom so that I don't have all this neutral stuff it's not too bad all right so you see how I walked around the scene inventoried what I had tried to organize it tried to get it is clean of because something put together and I think the most successful one is one where'd stitch two images together into a panorama which wass uh this one and so that's one example let's don't get a few other examples I only do one thing here uh here I ran into a mural this marilyn was in santa monica california I don't think it's there anymore it might he painted over it was something different but that's what attracted my attention then I inventoried the scene to see what's positive what's negative from what's neutral to me what was positive was the mural itself and then I like this seat that was here in the ashtray I thought the tree was okay and this colorful umbrella was kind of interesting so those are the positives what was negative was this liquor store that's next door this junk that's down here and just the random details that could busy up the scene in which neutral would be the sky and the sidewalk so let's see what I ended up doing so first I decided to try to get that umbrella in with the merrill so I moved into this angle and the problem with that is we have converging lines in those converging lines are sending me down this way off into the distance and there's no payoff when I get there if there was something standing here put a clown there or something and I move my eye down there and go oh cool you know thanks for sending me there but right now it's sending me away from my main subject and so I don't think it's very helpful so then I went for a vertical where I cut that stuff out and I tried to get us much as I could where things were straight but I stopped it tilted a little bit but now we have our umbrella in our mural but again I think those converging lines air sending me down this way there is a payoff it sends me this way to the umbrella which isn't a bad thing but in general it's putting my eye over here and it's not quite my favorite but it's one solution so then I concentrated on the mural and I ignored that umbrella and this is one instance when I decided to recompose the scene by moving things around this chair and the ashtray was something I didn't mind moving and so I decided to move it around in just recompose so here I had my meryl my chair in my ashtray didn't mind that but I had this diagnose near the top of the frame which makes my eye flick up there's no paid pay off when I get there and down here with an awful lot of neutral so I didn't think that that was all that great s so then I decided recompose again I tried to eliminate the diagonal of the top I couldn't get it completely out but I just might need to move this the tiniest bit to get what's in the upper right out but I started to get to be relatively clean so just try to refine it a little bit try going a little bit down try going a little bit up when I got up is when I thought I started to really get the chair to be more connected to the scene and so I just cleaned it up a little bit notice that here there's a vertical line near the edge of my frame I made sure it wasn't a diagonal this one I couldn't quite avoid the diagonal but it's not pulling me up there too strongly at least there's no sky up there that would be too much we do have a bit of neutral down here that I might rather not have but it's not bad and that's what I ended up with right there so you see how I walked up how inventoried the scene I saw what I thought was interesting in tried to really get it focused on what I wanted now this is the unprocessed version to me it's too bright and other things it's not that it's too bright though it's just I captured the right amount of information it's just not processed when I process it in photo shop it's going to become polished any questions about those last two scenes there was one from pro photographer wanting to know if you carry a ladder with you so you can get high angles of the scene but that's point part of our equipment section next it is I wish I could carry a ladder but I live in a motor home and behind it are dinghy as we call it her or what some people call your toad you're towed vehicle is a mini cooper in a mini cooper if you put a ladder on it looks awfully odd so I don't usually have a ladder but I do have other things to help get me above the scene and I'll show you what I used when we talk about gear any other questions I think bob has a question way did come to a scene like this do you take a photo and look at the photo to evaluate you know on the back of your camera to evaluate or are you just really looking at the scene and trying to capture what you see I'm not sure if I understand it makes when you're talking about all these elements do you actually take the photo and then look at the back of the camera and look and say oh no this has got to much neutral and it honey tio you know do something else or are you actually looking at it and then just trying to mimic what you see yeah what I do is I'm not looking through the camera at the beginning I'm looking just through my eyes in um inventory in the scene I say what's around here first what's the main element that I picked up my camera to take a picture of in this case it was the mural and then I'm saying what else around me might be useful to incorporate and I'm thinking about all the possibilities everywhere in that scene before I pick up my camera then just from wherever I'm standing when I have to get out of my car I'm saying all right well if I'm starting here from this position what's the first thing I could d'oh you know as far as trying to put these together into some orderly fashion that's nice and clean looking and I start there and then I just slowly work my way around the scene whatever the next thing is I think would be most useful to incorporate like I was thinking that colorful umbrella for like color and so I was like well let's work that and I couldn't get anything good with the colorful umbrella so then I was like okay what's the other thing instead I could use and I'm like all the chair the ashtray and so I'm gonna work that I'm gonna work around different angles different heights and see if I can get it where I like it once I get it close to where I like it then I'm looking through the frame saying is there anything that needs to be cleaned up where am I being sloppy because there's a tendency of being excited about whatever it is you found getting it so you got yeah I got a foreground element I got this thing cool they're in there click and then you want to walk away and what I want to do is the moment I think I got it is the moment I start to clean it up so when I think I got it then it's like okay yeah you got that now how could you make it even better by cleaning it up I look at the edges look at the corners look at the angle that chair I might have been able to clean this up even more I might be able to move the chair more if I happen to have had an assistant if my wife karen was with me or something I say hey karen go grab that chair and pull it out just a little bit further and I'd be looking through the viewfinder move the ashtray a little bit so it's not touching you see that's touching right there visually merging well if I really wanted to polish this I wasn't on a tripod here I was just handheld if I was on a tripod I could walk into the scene walk back to the camera walk into the scene walk back and find two things I probably would have pulled the chair out a little further I probably would have angled it so that this became a little bit more of a diagonal to send me kind of towards the mural I would have moved the ashtray so it's not touching this not visually emerging in trying to just get it so it might feel a little bit mohr of this neutral area but I was shooting hand held here and if I walk into the scene and I move things around and walk back I might not have a completely different composition not quite as easy to clean up but if one with karen was there it's a care and you mind you know and she'd start moving things around for me on I direct from the camera yeah awesome thanks and you know a lot of people in the chats on that d would liketo send out a special hi karen I think we're good on cues off that ledge keep rolling I'm going to just go through more scenes to show you how when I encounter him what happens in my brain when I put it again I'm not saying these are the best solutions is just what my brain does and if it's useful for you then you know incorporate some of the ideas of its not do your own thing so here were at so I think what I would call the wall we poos which is an area somewhat close to page arizona and the's hoodoos are where you have a big rock and through rain and other things what's around them wears away but that rock protects the area below it so you have these vertical things that are staying there because the rain is unable to get to the top of them so this is what it looked like when I first walked up to it and I'm like this is cool I want to take a picture of this and so I start inventorying the scene for what is in here that is negative what's neutral in what's the possibility that I could incorporate in this the first ideas just well look at all this stuff so you pick up your cameron I just took a picture what I don't like about this is looking how much neutral stuff there is this stuff all in here is this adding to the photograph none of this brownish kind of stuff is adding it all this wall in the back is okay but it's somewhat neutral in that it's not the reason I'm picking up my camera and so is the sky what I really like is this thing each one of the hoodoos individually in some of the elements below the hoodoos and so my brain is thinking okay that's really what's attracting me here that's what I'm going to try to focus in on and do the most with so I get up closer in first I find this vertical thing and I like it but when I just point my camera at it the sky takes up an awful lot of space and this other stuff is kind of busy over on the sides and so it's pulling my eye away from it so I just tried focus on the interesting show me on ly the interesting and in this case it's kind of on for me but I left the diagonal near the edge of my frame because it pulls your eye to that area but by pulling your eye to that area what is doing is pulling you across this so that you know I kind of look up here there is a pay off in that I just traveled across all this stuff and now I can come up here and in explore different areas so I didn't mind that necessarily and it also gave me a little bit frame of reference of oh there's a sky there I'm not in a tunnel I'm not in a you know something else but that's just okay I think it's better than this then I looked this collection of hoodoos and thought them kind of put together is not bad I liked here that this hoodoo had sun hitting it which made it bright in the background behind it didn't have sun hitting it which made it dark so the visual contrast between those two I let just made my brain light up I was like oh yeah I can back that up to this dark stuff would be great but we still have too much brown stuff in here that's really not positive it's just either neutral or negative to distraction from what attracted me so I get in try vertical to clean it up a little bit but then get an even closer start to try to incorporate a foreground as well so is finding this still wasn't that happy because the sky made by I go up there kind of away from this stuff it didn't make me travel across quite as much it just made me stay up here a lot so try a few different angles see if you get anything seeking a start to develop some relationship from the things that are near in that main object there I'm starting to get a little bit I think in that I have the hoodoo against that darker background I'm starting to get some of the foreground and they're a swell and they'd be nice if I clean it up I didn't have this dark stuff near the bottom maybe if I didn't have this dark kind of neutral stuff over and here maybe I could get a little tighter and just try to work the scene so I'm walking a bit tighter getting a little closer trying to concentrate on on ly what I think I like now in this case though there is a potential distraction and that is there's an interesting thing in the background I don't try to just put a cz many interesting things I confined in there instead what I'm doing is trying to concentrate on one and then what can I use is an accessory to that in this little thing pulls me over there too much where I look at this foreground and look at that thing and then boom mic over to the little element and I want to stay here so I try to get that out of the frame little sloppy at the top with the sky so I eliminate that and then I'm starting it concentrate on what I like and there's a shot ended up with this one's processed as it was the other ones were straight at the camera I still couldn't clean it up further in the lower left you see this stuff down here maybe move it a little bit to the left I don't know I don't know if I was able to and then I work other parts of the scene and say okay I got that element I got my shot now what about this thing and I worked my way around it there I'm trying to get a foreground element in the scene make it more dramatic but these kind of random angles aren't feeling all that great here we got a couple of them though how can I get one and another put together with a foreground object that's not too bad went on to my next victim and I liked this but sometimes what I try to do is concentrate on what's unexpected in this case this doesn't give me much scale I don't know how big this thing is it could be the size of a tree or could be something else but it was just an interesting element but that gives you sense for another scene how I walked around it figured out what I liked in tried to get it together here I'll just go through a very quick one just airing threw him here we're in iceland I saw a church I like kind of an art deco style this is what it looked like when I walked up when I inventoried the scene I like the church like the flowers that were here and there's also a sculpture that you'll see in a moment so I'm looking at the church saying all right the church all by itself though might not be enough for a really good photo it might be a nice snapshot though so I look at the surroundings and say what else could I incorporate with the church and I'm thinking the flowers and there's also a sculpture there's the sculpture but look at how much neutral I have this huge sky which we find if I needed a headline area or the name of a magazine to fit up there and down here this neutral stuff takes up a lot of space my son won't what if I lined them up still way too much neutral or there's lots of diagonals down here calling my attention there there's no payoff when I get down there so that's not really helping there we go now I'm starting to get one interesting shape and another interesting shape I just would like to clean it up do you see that building there that's a little sloppy if I moved to the right I might be able to get that building to be covered up or crop in this little pole and then there's some neutral down here at the bottom in a bit of the top maybe I could tighten it up I don't remember if I did or not I went horizontal here we go so now we got the church we got that we still got the tiniest bit of sloppiness right here could be retouched out in photo shop or I might build a recompose also whatever that little detail is in this little light they're not the most ideal um so I just tried something there I was trying to clean it up I wasn't able to clean it up while keeping things straight but notice that I did clean up that building I did clean up those posts and everything else but I don't necessarily like that now it's harder to see the face and things compared to here I know it just feels a little odd but I tried it you never know until you see it on the big screen if it was really good awesome undergoing around just trying to find what khun go with things so hopefully that gives you a sense for what happens in my head now the way you get all this stuff in your head so you're using it all the time is you concentrate on no more than three concepts at a time pick three of these concepts that you think you're not currently using you're not really good at thinking about put those three concepts in your head and keep him in your head think about him for a day or two days or three days or however many days it takes until you find that you automatically integrate him into your photography then pick three more and do that until you have all of them in there but don't try to concentrate on all of them at once because you're not gonna it's gonna be a big a jumble of stuff in your head so what my wife karen is doing is the handbook for this course if you purchase the course she's taken all these concepts and she's putting them into the handbook in a form where and I'll open it up when we come back from a break so I don't have a candy here but where you could print them out and they're actually in a little grid where you could cut where the grid lines are and it would be almost like a deck of cards where each one of these concepts would have been a separate little rectangle and you can actually shuffle them up and deal yourself three cards for the three concepts you should concentrate on put him in your back pocket go out in the field concentrate um and tell their second nature then set him aside do yourself three more and keep doing that until all of these for a second nature and in your head then it's not hard to use him at all and you could be much better at getting your compositions but you're not going to get him all from just write them down in glancing everyone swelled three at a time that sounds great s so you guys around here it's not being john malkovich being been wilmore let's get inside ben's brain so first off I want to say welcome teo leia rita this is my first photography class ever I feel so happy and grateful to have found this web site a few days ago from cruising the net so we'll welcome to creative live and been ken from vegas says I wasn't sure what to expect from this class being primarily a travel photographer I'm really loving this should help me get beyond the postcard shot so I definitely agree ben I really loved how you showed several photographs of how you just sort of walk up approaches scene and drill down to that one image that you're really want to walk away with so thank you

Class Description

So you just bought your first DSLR, now what? In this two-day workshop, professional photographer and Photoshop Hall of Famer Ben Willmore will take you inside his award-winning mind. From composition techniques to post-production Photoshop magic, Ben will unpack everything the pros know about taking and editing amazing photos. Ben will reveal his entire thought process when shooting — showing you how simple choices like lens selection can dramatically alter your results. You will also learn what settings you need to capture the right light, how to modify your gear to make it more useful, Photoshop techniques to polish your photos, and how to use apps and software to streamline your workflow. Whether you’re a beginning photographer, or a working photographer interested in a refresher course, this workshop will teach you how to make the most out of your DSLR.


Ashleigh L

AMAZING CLASS! I caught bits and pieces of the live stream, but even in those bits and pieces of it, I learned so much! He's a great teacher, easy to understand and great visuals. He "walks around" the subject to give us different POV, tells us the negative/positive/neutral of the photo, and tips. Thank you, Ben!