Creative Cinematography 3 - Composing Better Looking Video | Phil Ebiner | Skillshare

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Creative Cinematography 3 - Composing Better Looking Video

teacher avatar Phil Ebiner, Video | Photo | Design

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Course Introduction

    • 2. What is Composition?

    • 3. Types of Shots You Need to Know

    • 4. Getting Great Rack Focuses

    • 5. Composing Better Shots for Narrative and Commercial Video

    • 6. Composing Better Shots for Documentaries

    • 7. Bonus Lesson - Tips for Shooting with Caleb

    • 8. Project - Compose a Scene

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About This Class

This online Cinematography Course will teach you how to shoot beautiful videos with any camera.

Enroll in all the modules:

  1. Camera Basics
  2. Getting the Right Exposure
  3. Composing Better Images
  4. Adding Movement to Your Shots
  5. Lighting Your Videos
  6. Making Money as a Cinematographer

This course is designed to teach you the ins and outs of professional cinematography - the art of making motion pictures. While there are plenty of video courses, it's hard to find a comprehensive course that teaches you everything you'd want to know about shooting video.

This is the third course in the Creative Cinematography series. Please check out the rest of the courses in the Creative Cinematography series to continue your cinematography education.

In this course, you'll learn:

  • What is composition?
  • Types of shots you need to know
  • Getting great rack focuses
  • Composing better shots for narrative, commercial, and documentaries

This is the course for you, taught by a professional Hollywood cinematographer, Will Carnahan.

Regardless of the type of camera you are using - DSLR, Professional Cinema Camera, GoPro, iPhone, or Film - you can shoot beautiful video. Learn professional techniques that Hollywood filmmakers are using to capture powerful images.

If you want to learn how to shoot great videos and making money doing what you love, this is the course for you.

Start shooting better videos today!

Enroll today, and we'll see you in the course.

Meet Your Teacher

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Phil Ebiner

Video | Photo | Design


Can I help you learn a new skill?

Since 2012 have been teaching people like you everything I know. I create courses that teach you how to creatively share your story through photography, video, design, and marketing.

I pride myself on creating high quality courses from real world experience.


I've always tried to live life presently and to the fullest. Some of the things I love to do in my spare time include mountain biking, nerding out on personal finance, traveling to new places, watching sports (huge baseball fan here!), and sharing meals with friends and family. Most days you can find me spending quality time with my lovely wife, twin boys and a baby girl, and dog Ashby.

In 2011, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Film and Tele... See full profile

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1. Course Introduction: everyone. Welcome to a new section in the cinematography course. We hope you have been enjoying the course so far, and this is a fun section on composition now that you know how to expose properly. An important part of cinematography is pointing your camera in the right direction and making sure the right things are in frame. And so I'm going to let will talk a little bit more about what composition is and how to get great shots. But be prepared, another great section coming at you. So have fun and let's pass it to will. 2. What is Composition?: so welcome to a new section. We're gonna talk about composition and what composition is as well as how we're going to really change that up. To really do what you're trying to do. So why is composition important and what it is? Composition is the way you compose your shot. So, basically, what are you putting in front of your lens? Where you putting the camera and how are you framing it up? Are you putting someone to the left to the right, to the middle? Are you wide? Are you close? Are you medium? It's really the frame. There have not necessarily the movement but the frame that you have. You can have movement, change your composition. But what exactly is your composition? You can see right here. Phyllis kind of composed me in this shot because it is an interview. This is a good way to talk. You have things in the back. This is a well composed shop for what he's trying to dio. So when you think about composition, you have to think about what are you trying to do? What do you trying to say with your frame? We're going to go through some shots and we'll show you how composition can really change the mood, what you're trying to say and how you're saying it. The big thing about composition to me is that it really says a lot a photo. Think about a photo on what a photograph says. Think about a close upon eyes versus a wide of a face. Those air saying two different things and you want to make sure that for your project for what you're shooting your composition is saying what you want to say for the story, for the art, whatever it is you're trying to express your composition is really exemplifying that and showing that through the camera. 3. Types of Shots You Need to Know: so we're gonna go over some basic shots. What I want to go over is a wide, medium close, an extreme close up, and then we'll kind of dive in tow. What you can say within those shots. Those are the basic ways of shooting things, and you can kind of use that to communicate to people. So here, let's record with this camera. Here. Have a C 100 with the 24 to 70 will roll the camera here so Phil can cut in and we can see that this is our first wide shot. Not much information. It's It's a nice like structure we can see like there's a cup on the table. It's really wide. Shots are really great. It's really set the scene and understand exactly what you're doing. We're at 24. We're at a to wait so you can see and you can really see, like the expansive storytelling. What's about to happen? Typically, you can start with that shot, so let's go to a medium shot next. So we just zoomed in a zoomed into about between 35 50 and this is more of a medium shot, so you can see here we see the cup as a medium shot where we're not really seeing the background. But we kind of see the whole of the subject on a person and medium would probably be more on what you're seeing with me right now. Um, we'll show you some examples of a medium shot with a person you can kind of see. It cuts off either around the waist or a little bit lower and a two shot of two people. You can see where cuts off with their waste, and that's sort of a Medium two shot. So now let's look at our cup and let's do a close up. So here, I'm gonna take our 24 to saving Zoom all the way into 70. I'm actually gonna move the cup just a little closer, and you can see here. Now this is our close up of the cup. You could see the cup is very expressive. Here. You can see that we're pretty tight. We're pretty close up and imagine if it's a person. It's going to be more tight like this and you'll be able to really see what the person is expressing what they're saying. on, and you kind of get involved with really intimate space. Next, let's go into an extreme close up. So this is an extreme close up. You can see I'm really tight here on the cup now, and really, you can kind of see the focus going in and out because we're really that close on the cup. Typically, this is used for inserts of like a pan or someone's eyes. Really, just to really get in there and get intimate and understand exactly what's going on, you can see all the little intricate movements and everything like that. Extreme close ups are really fun. They're good for inserts there, like when you see that key into the door or that guy breaking the lock that's coming in the really fun to cut away, too. So those are the basic shots that you need to really cover a scene. The idea that you would use those shots to really make sure that you've got your structure for the editor to kind of get in and get what you need to cover a scene is great now, within those shots, that's when you want to start to kind of play around and use your composition to say things . Now let's go back to the wide. You see, I have a wide here of the cup. This is kind of our standard wide before. But now let's what happens. If we move, we pan all the way to the right and the still down a bit. And now our cup is all the way on the left. It's a little. It's a little Ricky because it's tripod, but you can see they're all the way on the left. Now that frame sizzle, that compositions is a lot more than when it's centered. Right? There's all this space on the right. It kind of seems lonely. Um, it really says a lot more and really can kind of like, you kind of see where the story comes up. Alternatively, if we zoom back into kind of our close up and we did the same thing where we just cut off the cup, maybe just halfway through. There's a famous shot of this in um Ali movie with Will Smith, where they cut just his his face off like that and there's a bunch of action going on on the right side again. This is a little more interesting, a little more artsy, and it kind of says more to the person when they're looking at that frame. So you want to use your compositions in a way, we still want to cover the wide medium close. But you also want them to say something this again. I feel like the cups. A little lonely. We're kind of moving things to the sides. This is a little more something like a doctor or a wedding or something might be fun to just see the bride Just putting just the front of her face, putting on makeup and stuff and maybe something in the background to say a little bit more than just Senator ring them up. Sending them up isn't necessarily always gonna say something, although it does have its moments. What if we tilt up and we just show the top? What's really fun about this is in a commercial Now, if we're shooting a commercial, we have room to put graphics up above right, so keep in mind when you're composing shots. If you need to do something or add something in post, you can always make room for that later or you can kind of see that there's just this really sad little cup there and centered. I do like a lot of symmetrical things more for commercial aspect, but it kind of depends again on what you're shooting, what you're trying to say and how you want to sit with your compositions. Just remember that your composition can say a lot. 4. Getting Great Rack Focuses: so compositionally it's something within your composition is changing the focus or what's termed as rack focusing. So that's really focusing on one thing to the next, and it really plays that aesthetic of cinema of narrative film. I like seeing documentaries do this a lot, too, but it really adjusts the focus and really, literally changes the focus of what you're watching, which would lead the storyteller early, the person watching the story in a direction that you want them to go in. This is awesome because this is, like very particular. You are literally changing the focus of what they're looking at and that has so many philosophical levels and different levels on what you're actually trying to do. So let's let's let's talk about how how to do that effectively. Technically, um, usually best practice are to make sure you're using a lens that gives you that shallow depth and you're shooting wide open. Right now I have a C 100. This is a 2.8, and I'm already zoomed all the way out here all the way into 70 millimeters. So that 70 millimeters in that 2.8 on the big chip on the C 100 is allowing me that depth of focus or that shallowness, we'll all be able to have something really in focus and a ton out of focus. So what I'm gonna do here is you can see I'm I'm here on the Blue Cell. Woke up when I want Iraq. Teoh uh, I want Iraq to something that's in the foreground, because that's really what focusing is about. There's different planes of focus, and I really want to tell the story of how the Blue Cup is out there in the background. But the Starbucks Cup is a little bit closer, so you can see how we're on. We're on the blue Cup, and I just slowly change the focus to the foreground. It's like That's a nice rack, and it's really pretty And like you can do that in a documentary and a wedding and a narrative, and you can see how it changed the look of it. Also, this lens doesn't tend to breathe a lot, so the zooms stays pretty good. This 24 7 is actually pretty impressive. Begin, see how we can rack back and forth and telling a story. Now these were people the Starbucks Cup could be facing us, not even knowing that the killer behind them is this blue Cup. So we would start on the face in front of us, and then we can rack to the killer behind, and that tells like a big moment in the story. It's a big thing in a documentary on a wedding. If it is the first look and the groom is looking at us and the bride is walking up towards us, we can rack to that, and we can react to their reaction as she comes up and anticipation for the for the first look. So really, there's a lot of different levels that you could use rack focusing at it just kind of depends on again what you're shooting on, how you use it. But the best way to do it is long lens wide open and big depth between the subject and the and the other subject in the focus plane 5. Composing Better Shots for Narrative and Commercial Video: So let me talk about some tips for composing different shots. First with narrative. Narrative is very interesting because as a cinematographer, you're going to be working with the director to kind of figure out generally how you want to compose a shot. How you want to tell a story. I tend to air things on close close shots as well as a lot of negative space for me. Negative space says a lot, and I love shooting in the aspect ratio. Something about composition is that you got to decide which aspect race here you're shooting in their 16 by nine. There's 235 there's 185 there's 43 If you really want to get old school, go for do that box. But within the composition that you're going to shooting, you have to decide what you're aspect ratio is gonna be, how you're gonna position people left or right. Something to think about. Movies would say the movie hawk. They didn't tend to shoot that in the nice, wide saving Private Ryan 235 aspect ratio. They shot it in 185 which is a little taller. Why, Because they're subject Hulk is taller than he is wider. So they want to be able to show everything as much as they could. Same with Godzilla. They shoot that in the bigger, bigger frame, as opposed to a smaller frame, because they want to be able to tell the story with their subject here. So big tip for narrative is to figure out what you're shooting and how you're gonna shoot that. If you're in tiny, tiny spaces, chances all your compositions, you don't want to be really wide. You're probably gonna have them be smaller and you're gonna have a more condense. People are gonna be closer. If you're shooting a movie about someone who's all by themselves and they're walking on a road trip, you're probably gonna want to shoot with lots of wide lenses, right? Because then they're gonna be alone. They're gonna be small and frame, and they're really going to be speaking to what the movie's about again, with everything else, find out what your project is, what emotion you're trying to equate. And what kind of framing composition equates to that emotions, specifically being alone lends itself to a wide lenses, of course, but being intimate and close and having a loving relationship. My end up being much tighter compositions to people's face to face, says a lot get intimate. So those where they think that best tips for narrative is to find out what you're trying to say and translate a word or a phrase of what you're trying to say into how that's expressed through a shot through a composition that added, with maybe some movement, which we can talk about later will really come out. And then you add in the lighting and you got a really awesome movie, all based off of what your composition is going to start with. 6. Composing Better Shots for Documentaries: so compositionally we talked about narrative. Now let's talk about Doc or events. It's a little hard Teoh kind of focus more on Docks compositions because a lot of times you're just running and gunning. My favorite thing with docks and events is that when you do interviews, you can really mess with the composition. I've seen some really cool documentary interviews where they might have two cameras going and you see one camera really tight on the lens and you can see the emotion if they're interviewing them about something really touching. And then they have, like, a wide standard or alternatively, in a dock, you tend to be running around with a camera on your shoulder. The fun thing about documentary is that you're really just looking at what's around you remember I talked earlier about paying attention, everything around you and working with with what's in front of the cool thing about Doc's is you can take your camera and put it on the ground and shoot a soccer ball going by. Or you could be running with the kid and trying to get him centered in frame. I think the big thing about documentaries is there's this 10 to go towards just news gathering and keeping the camera on your shoulder. You want toe with Doc's? You're trying to express something. You're tryingto present something in a certain manner. So you want to take that camera and take it off where we normally look right Were normally looking around with our eyes like this. The big thing to make things look different is to take your vision and move it somewhere else. So for a documentary, maybe take your vision and put it down on the floor, put it high up, put a GoPro in a car where you wouldn't normally see a camera. The big thing is to just put the camera where you wouldn't normally have your natural eyes if I'm sitting here and I want to shoot myself the cameras directly at my eye level because we're doing an interview and we're doing information. But if this was more intense, more emotional, Andi wanted to make myself look big. We might put the camera on the floor so I could be looking down on it. Or if you want to make me look small and talking up, we might move the camera tie up somewhere where your eyes are not typically, because that's what's gonna create that aesthetic. That's what's gonna create that magic. So for a dock, put the camera and compose shots where you wouldn't normally see things from. I think the other thing with docks is to really just understand that it's in the moment and you have to be rushing and quickly and quickly doing it. And typically you don't want it to look like a news thing. So shoot on a longer lens. Try to make it look like a narrative as much as possible, even though you're running around gunning. If you try to push yourself to make your doc look more like a cinema movie on, use the tools that I was talking about narratives like Rack focusing like 24 frames per second like high speed stuff. If you make your doc look more like a movie, people will be touched more and they will. They will feel more because they'll be in that mode of this is going to make me feel more as opposed to just washing the news 7. Bonus Lesson - Tips for Shooting with Caleb: So Caleb's going through some shooting in the next couple weeks, and I just wanted to give him a couple tips if he wanted to have any questions or any concerns about what he's shooting. Wanted to see if he had a couple questions maybe we could help you out with. So So one of the things I'm gonna be doing is running and gunning a lot. So I wanted to set up a shot where? You know, I have no lights? No nothing. It's natural lighting. Um, what's the best thing I could do? Like how Do what expose right for what I'm going for. Well, if you're not able to see the place that you're in beforehand, I would just go in there. I would turn your camera on immediately when you start talking to people just so you can start to see what the exposure is gonna look like. So you can kind of test it, set your eyes. So ah, and then just kind of try and set your settings as fast as you can. I know you want to make your stuff look really pretty and aesthetically beautiful and stuff . So you gonna try and shoot it A 28 Right. So go in there already. Knowing what frame rate and what? Um uh, what resolution you're gonna have. Right. So you already have that set. You'll go in there. You look at the light, set your white balance immediately, and then open up to a two way in a four and see if there's too much light Azure, Andy. And you should be able to do that all within three or four minutes, if that you will do that in, like, two minutes. So once you get that going, then then you can start to, like, relax and just know that your exposure will be fine. Turn your zebras and peaking on. So, you know, I think the hardest thing would be is if you're indoors, that might be a little harder to dio because there might not be a lot of light. Um, but aside from that, just go in there, get those settings really quick, and then try to start looking around and just start shooting. Um, that sounds so let me ask you a question. Um, let's take it indoors. Um, So when I'm inside, I say, I don't have that much light. Um, I know what is the native? I've s for seven. It's It was I'm not totally sure. The native I says I believe it's 1,602,000. If you're going to be walking into an indoor situation and you know that and it's at night or during the day, chances are they'll have tungsten bulbs where you're going, so set. You think that 3200 before you walk in, I would previously set your low, medium and high. I s so still a little bit higher than you normally been shooting with, right? Maybe start with your low at 1600 and then do 2000 and then do 3200 or something like that . Because if you already know, you're gonna walk into ah, really dark situation. You'll already be ready to go. You don't have to mess with that too much. Aside from that, yes, same thing. Go win with as many settings as you can set. And then when you get in there, adjust within a minute or two, so you can kind of just see and poke your head around and figure it out so you can relax and concentrate on your compositions and what you're gonna shoot and what's going on around you. So I'm gonna be shooting a lot of people running around. Um, you probably a lot of kids. So I imagine they're gonna be, like, waste eyes. I'm imagining with machine like this. Um, what are some tips and advice you could give me about, Like, how to compose? Really nice. That's gonna be fun. You're gonna be running around a lot. So you probably handheld. It's great with the FS seven cause you can hold it lower with us. Some of your monitor up. I think the best thing for you would be maybe think about shooting at a higher frame rate so you can capture what they're doing in a more fun way. The fun thing about 60 frames per second is that you can always move it to 24 if you need to and will have a little bit of a weird look. But I think you can accomplish more and you'll not feel nail stuff faster. Right? The other thing is to just be wary of your focus On the 24 to 70 there is Ah, there is like a little feet counter. So try and judge the feet you're at. Sometimes you won't have time to do that, um so again, down low, where they are beyond their level cause you're experiencing what they're experiencing and just try to move with them, I feel like that's the best thing to do. Move with them and play with the rack, focusing and and try and put things in the foreground elements. It's really fun to see kids moving around with something in front. Um, and then if you're gonna be handhold, stay handheld. If you're gonna be on sticks, try and stand sticks. I think with kids moving around a lot, you don't want to be jumping from one of the other. You want to pick one look or the other. Chances are I would be moving around cause it's just more fluid. It's more kids. It's more like that and then try and just get your mind set of them. That's what I would do. I would get in mind set of them and put the camera where you think would exemplify what they're doing. They're playing soccer and running around, get low and get to the ground and see the ball go by. You run along with their feet like just get inserts of what they're doing and close ups of their face. Maybe get a couple wides just so you have, um but it sounds like it's a lot of inserting stuff that's gonna look really pretty. Foreground elements. Give them some space when you're close. That might look fun, so you just have to feel it out. But it sounds like it's going to really cool. Shoot. Yeah, hopefully it iss sweet. 8. Project - Compose a Scene: everyone fill here back with another challenge that I want to propose to you. So in this composition section, we learned all about the different types of shots we can get. And so for you this challenge. We want you to go out and shoot a scene, whether it's a scene that you right up and you can get your friends together too quickly, shoot a scene. Or if you're shooting a documentary style seen, it doesn't matter. We just want you to go out and shoot something and get enough coverage. What does that mean? It means getting the wide shot so that we know where you are. Show the setting of wherever you are. Get a medium shot of your subject. It could be your person that is in your scene. Or if you're shooting just outdoors or in your home somewhere just to practice, pick a subject. Is your subject your micro paper? Or is it a tree, or is it a mailbox, or is it a cat? A pet? Pick your subject and get multiple shots of that subject. So a medium shot, a close up shot, maybe even an extreme close up shot, so that we can see all the different aspects of your character and then, if you can attract is your rack focuses because this is important skill to have as a cinematographer gain that smooth rack. Focus is something that will make your videos that much better. I hope you enjoy this challenge. As always, you can post it online and share with us. Otherwise, just keep it in your memory book and keep it on your computer. Maybe make a video out of it. You can add it to your video real someday, but enjoy the challenge and we'll see you in the next section.