Know Your Composition


Foundations of a Working Photographer


Lesson Info

Know Your Composition

I want to get the composition because as I start shooting tomorrow, I'm going to be calling out things like rule of thirds all right? Um, negative space head in a clean spot frame within a frame, leading lines, repetitive shape and form basic shapes, symmetry versus a symmetry, juxtaposition and balance. I know I used to be really a lot. Here are three things, and here are two things to keep in mind and years to things that and here's ten things to keep in mind. Composition is another thing that is difficult for me to, uh, it's a difficult subject to teach, like posing is because I just I've been doing it by feel and composition for me is kind of I feel one thing that helped me out a lot as a photographer was I was an assistant at a catalog, uh, house. All right, so we would get these layouts in from the art department and there would be, you know, here's the cover and there'd be a big headline and then a body of text and then some piece of artwork, and we had to shoot the picture to f...

it inside of that. And my job was the layouts would be this big, and we're shooting it on four by five that air this big, so my job was to create an acid tate overlay of the of this aspect of this ratio of witten height and stuff and make it a four by five overlay so when the photographer shot a picture pulled the polaroid, I'd lay that acid tate overlay over it and they would make sure that the subject material whether it be a person or a stack of towels is staying within in all of this and these were coming down from art directors and graphic designers and they were coming from an area of they understand balance amount of text to photo type and and I just traced hundreds of layouts making acid states and I think the repetitive nous of hundreds of layout tracings over and over what I get in the studio the morning and I'd have to make thirty you know, tracings, and I think that kind of concealed something congealed something into my brain of some part of it least negative space and balance all right, um so there is that so what I learned that I deal with composition is when I'm location scouting or I'm I'm taking photographs of whoever, whatever these are the things I'm thinking about and they're all building blocks into the next thing it's not this picture is just rule of thirds I'm looking like ok rule of thirds when I say rule of thirds it's this age old compositional tool that's been around for centuries and it's somehow proven visually that if you take your canvas which for us is our view finder and you break it up into this basic area of thirds these give you composition points in lines build your compositions around so we have the top third we have the middle third and we have the bottom third here all right then we have the left third the center third and the right third and we have these golden intersections as they call them right here that place in your main subject material your number one this is the most important part of my subject at an intersecting third or within a third creates a visually appealing kind of composition the other thing that's nice about this is it it allows you to vary your compositions that gives you starting points I see so many people do what I call sniper shooting where they stick their subject right in the center of their view finder and click click click click and click and click and there's all this space around them that isn't there for a specific reason I'll put people in the dead center sometimes but it's for a reason and I put people in the middle of my photographs a lot but if you'll notice I'll put their hand at the top third there in the middle but there are at the top third of that that's still in the third and the center is still a third it's still a thing all right so we'll walk through some things and it and it's best if I just sort of talking through what I was thinking all right so number one rule of thirds we have my subject off over here on the right third his face is up here in the top third but I have two subjects one is this music producer the second is the city of new york all right, I need to convey that here's a music producer in new york so I have two subjects this subjects in the bottom third of the subjects in the right third so I'm thinking rule of thirds I'm breaking it down all right so if I take my viewfinder like that right I'm on my thirds okay um I think about visual anchor points the face is a visual anchor point hands are visual anchor points and what I'm trying to do here so I've got him in a third that's right I've got him in the center third but his face is in the top third it's all thirds khun b all broken down two thirds fairly easy and I have these two orbs of light and I've got his face and I put his hand there I wanted his hand in the shot because I liked the interaction of the hand in the face and then this is an anchor point on anchor point an anchor point an anchor point and they create this closed loop this connection all right? I like that kind of thing. If I can make a shape where it goes from one thing to another thing to another thing to another thing to another thing, then I'm looking for that kind of composition. I want to create shapes with mike, my subjects and my compositions and my environments. All right, next up we've got a girl just standing here and we have a frame. So this whole picture here is afraid then we have a frame within a frame frame within afraid so. She is being framed by this square, all right? And I like basic geometric shapes, so we have a triangle, right? But check it out. We also have a triangle here we have a triangle here way. Have a nice basic circle way have a rectangle. We've got another near triangle right here in the negative space triangle here. Square rectangle, two more triangles and a circle for the head and it kind of looks like that is just a sketch. And I have done many times I take a look at a picture and did this one just getting started in photography. I'd get a picture out of a magazine or wherever I'm like, I love this picture and someone talked me toe put tracing paper over it and just sort of do this just sort of find the basic lines and shape and then just look at that tracing paper and say how is that shot built income opposed how is it balanced all right so a couple ballerina shots in here exactly internet loves that you're writing on the monitor yeah superfund all right frame within a frame here is my frame here there's my frame then she is framed in the carpet of these stairs she's also framed by the lines of this banister and there's repetitive shapes and repetitive form all these leading lines coming down somewhere through there and then repetitive shape and form again repetitive shape and form repetitive shaping for it's all very kind of busy here the sides then we just have these interesting shapes of negative space here it's very symmetrical it's symmetrical its rules of thirds its frame within a frame it's leading lines it's repetitive shapes repetitive forms circle triangle triangle triangle triangle rectangle rectangle is square of the body like that but she's framed within a frame within a frame falling along so far and the repetitive shapes of all of it and I was very very very deliberate I'm always trying to be as deliberate as I possibly can to make sure I would have been really pissed off if her to two here would have been not perfectly touching at the edges I wanted it I want you to I want you to look at my pictures and go well look at that detail zach notice that and made sure that happened it's such a symmetrical shot if she would've been standing off over here put it would have not been a symmetrical it would have just been a symmetrical shot that didn't get pulled off correctly the whole thing screams symmetry all right so same thing just a different angle all right we have our circle we have our triangle we have our triangle we have our triangle we have a triangle right we have this little circle here a little bit of circle here and we have a frame within a frame head in a clean spot head in a clean spot head in a clean spot steve shafer my old photo teacher but oh my gosh he would scream at us great spot cleans by clean spot so you have some blake something you know flying out of somebody on tree limb out of something and you can scream that enough you think fifteen years later that cameras coming up to my face technically spot ahead including a clean still scared to death of steve shafer I love him to death he's such a huge like he's why many reasons why I do what I do today but I'm just looking for basic shapes repetitive shapes, repetitive forms all right. So this all right? One more ballerina here I think so headed a clean spot rule of thirds she's still in the middle of the picture but she's in the center third it's still third you can still use it her face the number one part of it is in the top third top third senator I'm taking in third I'm constantly thinking in thursday's I'm sitting here teaching I'm looking at all of you had a clean spot head clean spot that you've got an outlet growing out of your ear you have a camera growing out of your head penn the clean spot that you have apple boxes coming out of your shoulder and you have some sort of camera rig coming up out of your head as I look at people had not clean spot head to clean spot heads in almost in queens but camera um it's just it's a madness all right so head in a clean spot then what I loved was the shape of this banister and these lines because they darn well near become wings but I wanted to make sure they came in and intersected at a nice angle with the rest of us of circle we have a triangle here we have our triangle again now we have this other triangle I had her pull her arms out tear because this shape makes trying todo triangle triangle triangle right just building one shape repetitive shape and form repetitive shape informed I look at pictures how many triangles are in that picture there are times you could go oh my gosh there's like I got fifteen triangles between the negative space and the positive space of the photograph I have, you know, ten squares I'm built twelve circles um in my shot when you on I'm looking at a person and imposing them their head is a circle, their body is a rectangle or circle uh their arms could become two triangles one triangle different levels of whatever if their arms air pulled in, they've become a very tall cylinder or rectangle as soon as this has broken this becomes a triangle into a rectangle into a circle think of it as just you pre school building blocks and you're just building things squares, rectangles, circles, cones and you're just trying to build something that balances right it's a game of visual balance this circle on top of this rectangle balances with this square over here and they're all within a square that's within a rectangle and there's nothing growing out of the person's head head to clean spot. All right um nothing really to trace here but I'm just always looking for a head in a clean spot heading a clean spot it's there's all this business of stuff going on and where can I find head and clean spot all right there times it's like heads not really in a clean spot but what I liked about this was the frame within the frame, and I liked this shape going on here, his circle, his hair makes almost another circle. The light, the light starts to make a circle, it's on a third and it's now asymmetrical, and we have this negative space over here. And when you're working with in the commercial world, old, more so than in, like, family portrait ce or whatever lips I don't have the white on that. Sorry, um, your clients need negative space to put text logos, artwork, concert tours if you can hand them a photograph and they can just simply slap their text right onto it and print, you have done years, your clients a great, great service, so you've got to think and that's where, working for that catalog house and how many times you think I complained about loading film for some other photographer who I felt that know what they were doing, and I'm standing around watching towels be photographed all day, how much you think I complained about that a lot, and I have been I have come to tears in the film loading room, I'm loading someone else's film and it's been months since I've loaded my own film, and there ain't nobody load in my film, and I got to go out here and load this jerk's film and then like sweep the floor people are pointing at me I bet the internets about to break all right so I have to move forward but guess what? How much did I learn doing that it's a total like karate kid thing like this stupid mr miyagi you know find balance in that photo balance it with text shoot this picture and give me a logo in the top left this stupid oh that's easy after doing it repetitive over and over and over again all right, so, uh triangles check it out triangle repetitive circles these anchor points here write another anchor point here we have two triangles we have this triangle dude do triangles five minutes so we'll be done in about thirty e I want you all right? So rule of thirds this that and the other what I was drawn to as I'm shooting is how this shape in the cloud matches like it's like cut out for her head. I could have photographed her where she was right here intersecting this point but I didn't want that I'm like, oh my gosh look look at the shape of the head look at the shape of the cloud click like that makes sense to me I want I want people to look at my photographs and see the small details and no, I was deliberate because if I'm a thinker if I'm thinking through my pictures and I'm delivered I deliberately attached that horizon line to the elbow which went to the shoulder which went to the other elbow which went back to the horizon line and made this perfect line if they're that deliberate and thinking as a photographer I can hot trust them to shoot this job for me that's what I need people to see in my work look at my work try to find the details trust me hire me please god right okay rule a third some symmetry leading lines these lines leading down to her repetitive shape and form again more leading lines this makes ah big triangle this negative space around her is a big triangle and a big triangle and another one until oh and somewhat too a bit I wish her dress would have come out more because dresses khun sometimes kind of make a rough triangle triangle coming down triangle coming up bringing your eyes to my subject when you look at that you know what the subject is? You know who the subject is there's just no getting around it there's the subject and all these lines are going to bring you into ballots I'm out shooting this dude on a rooftop and I could all look at that happy little cloud look at that happy little cloud point mr aaron shoes that's that guy's name well, that's point right do it I want to back up I'm going to shoot a lot of negative space and I'm just going to let that cloud kind of hang out of their end point right to him on dh let this have a connection and build balance in it tons of negative space head clean spot frame within a frame triangle squares, lines, repetitive shape inform. All right, now this one's a little harder to see on the screen I wish it showed up a little bit better but there is this almost like wagon wheel coming out of her head it's hard to see up here I don't know if the live feed out might be able to see a little bit better but we have these lines. It was this structure you see them all here had not in a clean spot but I deliberately put it there because it was just this interesting sort of burst coming out from behind her. Um and then it was now that her head's not in the glean spot it's there for a deliberate reason because it's almost this weird halo ish thing coming out from behind her and I deliberately put it as symmetrically behind her as possible all right and it's not so overbearing on a print you can see it much better than that frame within a frame framing them in side of this and notice on my group shots it's a rare thing that two members are doing the same thing with their hands. Sometimes it works, but when I'm shooting a group of people and we're talking about the hands that I'm trying to get each person in the group to do something different, so one's going to be hands in pockets, one's going to be a thumb in one pocket and one hand loose one is going to be two arms down and the other is gonna be hands up doing so, and I tried to build differences between them, but they just sort of fell into place, and I like their relationship that they were in dark clothes, they were in light clothes. Um, they're kind of one part of the band of their kind of another part of the band, and I wanted to show that kind of relationship, so I put them in light clothes on the left, in them and dark clothes on the right and kind of put them doing the same sort of thing and then broke them up a little bit on the left, and then I just needed a really nice, clean composition. I put them under this tunnel in central park and just let the background blowout here is one of those situations I didn't have enough light to keep them in the background. Um, so I just let the background blowout as long as I keep separation of these white shirts I'm good all right? Here we got the band not doing the exact same thing. They're all hands in pockets, but one's in one's out it's got both in his back pocket front pocket and then thumbs and I had okay, you do thumbs, you do one front and when I just don't want all four dudes all like this, break it up a little bit and handsome pockets or kind of one of the easy things to do, but check out this shape. This is what I was trying to create, other than a like more bars and more places look, I wanted their bodies to create one shape all on its own as a solid, and then just made sure I had a little bit of negative space in between each one, but we have repetitive shape and form their whole a shape makes one shape, and then we have the's long rectangles here, and then we have negative space shape. We have this shape in the negative space and this shake down here in the negative space as well, it's all about shapes when I'm shooting groups of more than four, I'm usually trying to make an m or w with all of the heads and circle circle circle triangle circle circle circle triangle are a little triangle hanging out here I gotta try and go hanging out there triangle training triangles all right, more triangle's the whole group kind of it's coming in like this repetitive shape and form circles I got this triangle I got this triangle I've got this visual triangle and you just kind of squint your eyes you start to see the anchor points you start to see what what's visually popping at me tracing paper over it squint your eyes and you start to see shapes all right? We're almost done with this uh, leading lines having a clean spot negative space you need to put their band name, band name and sub name plenty of space to do so head clean spot. Omg I had a photograph this guy he's uh he's a freelance animator for ah uh cartoon network like he works on aqua teen hunger force and stuff and I need to photograph him. It was for relevant magazine and I need a photograph in his office and there's just like stuff everywhere and I asked him to remove a couple things right here on this wall so I could have had the clean spot had a clean spot he had these other framed things here and toys and stuff and it was just he got so lost he needed a one little spot to live in in the photograph so I simply asked them to just remove a few things alright heading a clean spot making shapes and lines and then I wanted her fingertips toe lead into this opening here and lead and just kind of match this little spot right here I also shot one where her hands were kind of coming up to here but her arm came up too weird oven angle and she looked like this it looked more natural she dropped one but I wanted those to come into this notch and these two point down this not I had to clean spot shooting up some one wide angle not supposed to do that but we'll talk tomorrow about putting a shadow into their chin so it doesn't make him look heavy all right and lastly frame within a frame leading lines heading a clean spot I've got two subjects I have a subject on here and I got these big apps amazing buildings right when I see that I think symmetry it screams for symmetry symmetry, symmetry, symmetry, leading lines and just break it up with a little bit down here with my subject um if I would have shot this and she intersected the building on one side or another I would have failed at a composition the thing screams symmetry and so if it's screaming symmetry I got to make sure I get it questions um doofus snoop would like to know if if we can ask you how you select your location so often their key, your composition. Yeah. Ah, lot of my locations air just found by driving around. Look at that. It's a frame here's. Two buildings that week that becomes a frame. Um, and I have a head and clean spot. And look at these elements, those airlines leading into that frame. So I have leading lines into a frame and ahead and clean spot. And at this vocal link that's going to be great at this focal length. It's not going to be great, but this vocally, it will be great. Um, ah, lot of my shoots. I just I get dropped into a situation and go, ok, I have to make pictures here. And so, as I'm looking ok, what? Whether I got what I got. Well, I've got all these panels overhears that's, repetitive shape and form. I could make frames within frames with those I'm going to a head in a clean spot. I can go long lens and take these these panels and compress them, right? I could there on wheels so I can move them around. And aiken, I make a line of, um I can frame someone inside of one of them and then compressed them in with the telephoto and I've got leading lines about repetitive shape and form I've got heading a clean spot I do rule of thirds and if it goes out of focus enough it's some negative space as well right I look at that wall over there I see this big white wall broken up by a white door and it's like there's a frame within a frame there you know and I just and my location scouting is I've never gone down the street before let's drive down there I've never been to this side of town let's go over there and see what we find other questions this question is from as factor who is a long time regular here on creative life the question is could you discuss strategies for candidates that a hero if you just always looking for the head of the clean spot when you're going candidate I'm looking for candidates I'm looking for a head a clean spot or I'm looking ok I've got it it's cocktail party and I'm shooting candidates and it's just so busy there's not gonna be ahead in a clean spot and there's times where you just got to give up something it's a cocktail party and then uncle joe is laughing with the father of the groom and it's a great picture of the heads in a clean spot no can I get around to the other angle to get it there no I could but I lose the moment the moment takes precedence over the perfect competition now in the best case scenario you you find the area where the light is good in the composition is good and you wait there for the moments to happen in the good light in the good competition umm I like street shooting or I like approaching portrait's approaching strangers for portrait's and things like that um but I don't approach people when they're in bad light I don't take that shot of that character on the street if the compositions going to suck or if the light is horrible but if the characters in good light then I'll shoot there so I'm trying to put myself in positions where the light is good, the composition will work and then I wait for the moment to happen from as some like a cocktail party though you just got to get the shot so I go long winds two hundred millimeter blow everything out of focus and when it's all out of focus, it's had to clean up. I kind of want to go back tio a little bit previous when you're talking about introvert being introverted there's quite a few questions about it neal would like to know how long it took you to get your people skills to a normal level and how long to surpass that um I don't know, I mean, it was I remember um okay, uh, apply talk about this some sunday, but how I learned to start my business was coming from watching life most favorite film of all time number one schindler's list schindler's list is my number one for all time it's it's what put photojournalism in my heart? It's what? When I finished watching that, I was just about to enter photo school and I was wondering, what do I do with photography? You're given this gift and you're supposed to be doing something with it with your life? What do you do? And I watch schindler's list around that time and it was like, oh my gosh, look at the power of story about love, love, love! So in that movie oscar schindler shows up to germany or wherever it is with all the cash he has left in his pocket and he walks in this restaurant early before the dinner crowd hits, and this is where all the german officers hangout and he gets himself a table and when he walks in, nobody knows who oscar schindler is like the maitre d is like where you like, nobody knows so he's sitting there at the table and then ah on officer walks in with a girlfriend or wife or whatever and he sends them a bottle of wine and then invites him to that they don't know who he is and and like who is that by the end of the night everyone in that restaurant is that oscar's table and wine and treek and cigarettes and girls and everything's just going and it's music and by the last officer walking in that evening goes to the main audiences who is that? And he goes it's oscar schindler are you crazy it's oscar freakin schindler and he walked into a room where no one knew him and he built something up and then followed up on it and started a career but he spent every last dollar that moment that he had and in a weird way and in this six situation that that all wass I took from that and I went toe a networking event I've been once before and I kind of just hung out in the corner and I had a little stack of cards with me and I sort of met a few people and um and I was like, I've got to get to know these people I have to do something so I I went like a couple times there and I actually looked a couple jobs pretty straight away and I took that money and I called the person who organized this event I said good eyes sponsored next month's event what do you mean will sponsor? You know, like I'll get some I don't know chicken fingers and taquitos in a pony keg of beer just to thank you guys, I look some jobs and just thank you buy some beer and food for everyone really? No one ever done this before now where? It's a music local music industry club no one buys anyone beer like we're no well then this is what I'm doing. We'll find canary sent out an email. Sure. And it was like the most attended event they had all year it was free beer and free food and I stood there at the little half caste guy bought boring people beyond zacarias how's it going beer food get some food here's some beer. I'm zachary some stock he go and by the end of that night is that zacarias he's target resources, right? And I just had to put myself out there and sometimes that means putting yourself out there with beer you go pick up pick on your friend, right? And it was after that that I was in, but I had to figure out a way in right it's all about your network. We're going into that more on sunday. Other questions do the work. I think I'll do the work put yourself out there you don't you have to you have if you want to do this and make it as a living and this is your job, you have to put yourself out there if you're just shy and quiet and you can't bust out of that bubble, you've got to find a way to bust out of the public or you're not going to make it tell yourself that I'm not going to make it unless I get out and get over my fear the number one number one cancer in this industry is fear being if I'm afraid of like I'm afraid of my lenses I'm afraid of people I'm afraid of talking to that person I'm afraid of screwing up a wedding I'm afraid of losing the images I'm afraid I'm afraid I'm afraid I'm afraid I'm afraid you'll never make it ever you're going to suck ready when you're never gonna become a photographer and you're gonna hear the calling and you'll never be chest got to get over it and that's true for anything in life really just photography right? It really is unless you want to be a monk I mean it's kind of a good thing that you know if they're silent it's still the same thing you've got a you've got to just you know I don't know you could be a just a office worker and working in office for thirty five years and like, you know, tell some jokes around the water cooler and get your check and your pension and hopefully have enough money to get an rv when you retire and go see the grand canyon and build bird houses and put the church bulletin together on the weekends, like and some people that's their life and happy people. But I'm not saying that's wrong. That's. Just not what I do.

Class Description

Want to be a good photographer? Want to do it for a living? Want to rise above the bottom? Then join Zack Arias for this creativeLIVE course. Zack's first workshop was all about studio lighting. This time around, he's covering what you need to know to be a professional working photographer. Many people requested a class about business. Many requested natural light. Plenty wanted strobe + ambient. Everyone wanted more “client interaction” and posing guidelines. Zack's digging deep and covering as much as he can.



Outstanding! There are so many gems, any photographer aspiring to venture into business will gain much from this course. There are plenty of technical how-to's with superb examples, from choosing the right lens for a given situation, to learning about reciprocals, expressed in Zack's warm and fun style. He's a joy to watch. But, this class is much more than that. Zack is extremely generous in sharing very personal experiences and insight, on how he began from early days of struggling, to current projects, how he built his portfolio, and looking ahead to the future. And, in the final discussion with his wife Meghan, they open up and share their personal struggles balancing work and family life, and their strong support of each other. We can all relate to this. This class is a great guide on what it takes to start and become a successful pro photographer, and pulls no punches. It's not easy to do, but with some creativity and an insane amount of hard work, is doable and very rewarding!