Professional Outdoor & Nature Photography 2: Understanding Composition | Charlie Borland | Skillshare

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Professional Outdoor & Nature Photography 2: Understanding Composition

teacher avatar Charlie Borland, Professional photographer for over 35 years

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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 (55m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Overview of Nature Photography

    • 3. Introduction to Landscape Composition

    • 4. Framing Composition

    • 5. Leading Lines Composition

    • 6. Patterns Composition

    • 7. S and Z Composition

    • 8. Negative Space Composition

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About This Class

This course covers nature photography and composition specifically. The included videos will explore many methods of arranging subjects into great compositions that ideally are very marketable., 

Meet Your Teacher

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Charlie Borland

Professional photographer for over 35 years


Charlie Borland has been a commercial and stock photographer for over 35 years. Based in Oregon, his clients include Xerox, NW Airlines, Fujitsu, Tektronix, Nike, Blue Cross, Nationsbank, Precision Castpart's Corp., Mentor Graphics, Texas Instruments, Pacificorp, Cellular One, Sequent Computer, Early Winters, Cascade Bancorp, and AGC. He has won numerous awards for his photography and received recognition for annual reports he has photographed.

His imagery has been used thousands of times worldwide, including National Geographic Adventure and Traveler, Outside, Women's Sport and Fitness, Newsweek, TV Guide, CIO, Sports Illustrated for Women, Time, Backpacker, Sunset, American Photo, Outdoor Photographer, Eco Traveler, Southern Bell, to name a few.

Charlie has been teaching... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I am Charlie Borland, and I've been photographing in the outdoors professionally for over 35 years. And because I want to share this experience with you, I've created a series of short courses on how to be a professional outdoor and nature photographer. And this is Part two. If you plan to sell photography there, many things you need to consider and one is that many photographs that sell very well have great compositions. So in this short course, I'm going to show you many examples of composition in various forms. Demonstrators, well, using images I've captured that have sold well and been published. What you're going to gain by the end of this course is a solid understanding of composition to help you when you're in the field, see your subjects a lot better and in a more powerful way, and hopefully you'll create images that make you a bunch of money. So let's get started 2. Overview of Nature Photography: So you recently had some good things happen. You won an award or someone paid you for a print to put on their wall an online. You are receiving nothing but complimentary comments about your photography. All these good things have stroked your ego and motivated you in your pursuit to make photography your career. Like most of us, you love the outdoors and nature, and photography seems a natural way to continue photographing and making some money from your efforts. I personally believe that most professional photographers photographed landscapes, nature and wildlife. Many market their photography to generate income, and so it's natural to assume that outdoor and nature photography is a very competitive area to do business and to make a living. And that's the truth. Since you've gotten this far in the course that it's pretty obvious this is what you plan to do, and that makes today the first day of your photography career. So now it's time to take some action. You must decide what you're going to photograph and what markets you're going to shoot for . So let's look at some of the subject areas that you can focus your camera on. Wildlife is very popular, and it's understandable why this is a niche market, and it might be the smallest market category in nature photography. There are plenty of fabulous wildlife photographers already out there who get the majority of attention. Some of them are wildlife biologists who have become very good at photographing their subjects while they're out there doing research on specific wildlife. And for those who can't or won't venture into the field, there are wildlife game farms that allow photographers the opportunity to photograph wildlife in controlled situations. And some of the settings are pretty realistic. Some wildlife photographers, however, refused to shoot captive wildlife, and some photo buyers refused to buy images from game parks. The ethics of whether to do this or not is up to each photographer. But Game farms do make it easy to get close to spectacular wildlife. Just understand that many publishing markets want to know if the images in the wild or in captivity the national parks. This is a vast subject area simply based on the size of the national park system in the United States and around much of the world. Some of the greatest scenery has been preserved in parks and these air, often the most fun to photograph. It's a fairly good sized market because America and the world loves their national parks. And there is a huge industry that creates products to sell to tourists visiting these national parks, from magazines to books, calendars and other related products. They all published photographs from the national park system, making this a good market but also extremely competitive category For nature photographers . There's a lot more for the nature photographer to photograph, including wilderness areas, state and local parks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, oceans, underwater botanical gardens, insects, flowers and other nature subjects. And occasionally there's a need for these mawr out of the way or lesser known locations. Think about wilderness areas for a moment. Many of these require access either by foot or possibly a horse or even a llama, but they do require extensive effort to get out to where some of the best senior is. This makes a lot of sense if you're in condition to do that type of work than the farther out you go, the less competition you'll have for beautiful photography from these remote locations. Another location to think about is the Grand Canyon. Being a national icon certainly has plenty of potential markets to sell the photography, too. Now think about the city in the town where you live. It will most likely have local appeal, with the exception that maybe down the road at some point that City Park is featured in a magazine. Because of all the great hiking trails it has or the bird watching or something similar, the Grand Canyon will have a lot of demand over extended periods of time. While the need for photographs of the city park in your town might only happen every once in a while, most landscape photographers shoot all of these subjects to keep a diverse and broad file of images. And you really cannot overlook the potential up for the natural areas close to your home, part of being that local hero. Having lived in Portland, Oregon, for many years, there are wonderful photographic opportunities within one hour of the city, including the beach, the famous Mt Hood, the Columbia River Gorge and smaller state parks. Then there's the city, which has parks, this rural oak tree, wheat fields and agricultural scenes, all within an hour of the city All of these images have been licensed for use. And if you consider the concepts that we talked about previously that you could apply to these images, well, they simply could be taken pretty much anywhere. There's an oak tree or agricultural scenes. Gardens are another great subject that I consider to be nature photography and often overlooked by a lot of photographers. Most of them prefer the national parks in the wild areas, But gardens very close to home certainly have big markets. If you look at the magazines that use garden photography like Sunset Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Martha Stewart Living and other publications use plenty of these types of images. My good friend Janet Lottery specializes in garden photography. She has many books to her credit, as well as a list of commercial clients who hire her to photograph gardens. These include seed companies, soil and fertilizer companies and many more. And they all use garden photography to promote their products and services. Just think about that. Would you prefer to photograph gardens at $1000 a day or sell a garden photo to a calendar for $200? Well, they're both appealing, so just keep in mind potential commercial markets for your style of photography. Another popular and in demand subject are what I call natural events. Mother Nature, at her best, provides some of the best photographic opportunities for outdoor photographer's. This includes lightning clouds, fog, God raise storms, rain, snow and all those glorious natural events all make for great photographic subjects. When the weather is lousier changing, it's time to be grabbing your equipment and heading out. You should be looking not only for images that represent your area in these conditions, but images that are anonymous, like this tree in the snow. It could be from anywhere or lightning against the sky could also be from anywhere. There's just no identifying landmarks within these photographs, and that makes their appeal even broader. We also see every spring terrifying images of storms and tornadoes and storm chasing as a photographic endeavor has become very popular. If you are an adrenaline junkie and live for these situations, you could do well with images and video footage of extreme weather to see what I'm talking about doing online search for Warren Faidley. He's very well known as a storm chasing photographer. And, of course, there are many others who have jumped into this arena as well. Success at capturing great natural events is really a matter of just being out there and at the right place at the right time. These four photos of the result of being out there when maybe I might question whether I should be the rainbow followed a huge summer thunderstorm where I took refuge in my truck, trying to figure out where I could go on photograph. The God raised streaking from this clouds could be shot anywhere and has universal appeal is a stock photo because it can be used for so many different concepts and applications. The sun bursting through the fog is the result of shooting in the fog and waiting long enough for it to begin to burn off lower. Multnomah Falls in Oregon rarely see snow, but when it does, it's time to head out there and shoot. So again, I've said it before, and I'll say it right now. There is plenty to photograph out there. You just need to get out and do it. So this is just the intro to nature photography. Now let's dig in a little bit deeper 3. Introduction to Landscape Composition: the uh creating photography that appeals to the markets is really not much different than creating photography that makes your friends, family and followers gush over your images. Good photography elicits impressions from viewers and motivates buyers to purchase the image. The only exception is in the case of images licensed because they meet a conceptual need. And in some cases these may not be the most beautiful images but the most vocal image making a statement for the client. There are basically four main ingredients to a strong and well photographed image composition, lighting, exposure and subject. But right now I'm going to discuss composition in particular, which can be the difference between a good selling image and one that doesn't sell. Professional photographers are more successful than amateurs at this because they've developed their vision and refine the compositions in their photographs. So we'll take a look at different compositional approaches to creating successful photographs. We all know I see differently than the camera, so it is a skill to organize the elements into a composition that resembles what our minds I saw, since a photograph is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional scene. There's a need to show the viewer that the scene has great depth or the subject is close or far or small or large. This is done by using a lens to create, in many ways illusions that emphasized depth. Any lens can work, but a wide angle is often the preferred approach, since it allows easier creation of visual depth. Wide angle lenses create the near far view by using perspective distortion, which gives the illusion that the subjects closest to the camera are even closer and the background objects are even further away. You can, in effect, tell the viewer of your photograph what you want them to see in your image by using compositional strategies that guide there I to that point, Have you heard the term making order from chaos? That is one of many phrases photographers use when describing the effort to create an effective composition. It's the process of arranging what might be a chaotic scene upon first impression into a scene with some semblance of order that evokes a more pleasing response from the viewer. Creating a successful composition is the process of taking separate ingredients and combining them into something mawr whole, something more pleasing I liking it, too. Making a great chocolate cake, which is nothing more than a collection of tasteless ingredients until mixed together and baked. The final combination creates a greater taste. Your whole photographic composition is similar. A powerful E composed photograph might contain many ingredients or only a few, but once combined, they recreate something much more powerful. You've probably also heard about the rules of composition. The very idea of rules is widely disputed by many photographers. And while I agree with them, I also believe that these so called rules are really just guidelines. And it's these guidelines that are inspirational for those new to photography and learning to see many images air successful because there's a star element in the composition and the remaining areas are the supporting actors all there to make this star look good? We will explore these guidelines as a way to start that visual stimulation and get you thinking about shape and lines and visual flow. I should mention that some of my best selling images include some of these compositional guidelines, so it makes no sense to debate whether their rules or guidelines, but rather understand how they apply to your photography. You will find that you can employ one guideline or multiple guidelines into your compositions because in the end the photo either works or it doesn't. So I encourage you toe. Look at these guidelines. I'm about to present on Leah's inspiration in training your eye and your conscious to see and frame the natural world in your camera. 4. Framing Composition: the first compositional guideline or rule that I'm going to start off with is called Rule of Thirds. But remember, there are no rules, only guidelines. The rule of third goes way back and was apparently used by early painters who discovered where viewers went when looking at a painting. When you apply the rule of thirds, you create a way for viewers to look first at a certain area in the composition and if done effectively, you can create a more pleasing and harmonious photograph. In this series of photos, you can see how the thirds align compositionally for the image of the badlands. The Horizon line is right of the 1/3 top line, and the rock pinnacle is centered in that area. The lighthouse uses thirds differently, with 1/3 rock foreground and 2/3 sky. The lighthouse, the star of the composition, happens to be right on the 1/3 left line, and the light itself sits in what we call a hot spot where the horizontal and vertical 1/3 lines meet. For this reflection, the horizon line is dead center. While this works in some compositions, it doesn't work in others, so it really depends on the subject here. It works just fine, and you also have the clouds in the left 1/3 and the trees in the right 2/3. So that's why we say there are no rules on Lee guidelines because this image breaks a few of them, and it works very well. This lighthouse photo had water in the foreground without any interesting feature. And then there was the sky. I like the size of the lighthouse and the rocks on the right, creating depth to the scene, but had to decide if I wanted a lot of water in the foreground or a lot of sky. I found the sky more interesting, and so the sky is roughly 2/3 and the water and lighthouse 1/3. It was a good choice because this photo made the cover of a calendar later. This image is from northern Arizona, and what caught my eye was the rock on the top. When I started to frame the scene within my camera, I liked how the lines in the sediment acted like receding lines, and they lead the way to the top of the hill, and this allowed the rock to sit in a 1/3 hot spot quite well for a great composition. This is kind of a different take on the 1/3 to third compositional guideline, and here the tree consumes the left 1/3 side, and it grabs attention first before guiding the I to the right side. Framing is a wonderful technique in which you may have a subject that is appealing but lacks an interesting foreground. Framing allows you to add depth to your subject as well as contrast. Here's an example. This is from Arches National Park. I didn't feel it was much of a composition in the rocks until I found this dead tree, and then I used it to frame the surroundings. I think the framing helped, but in the end, I don't really believe this is a marketable image. While I framed it and there's lots going on, I'm just not so sure that this is your traditional image. As far as a strong selling nature photograph. This is Devils Tower in Wyoming, and I photographed it sunrise. The tower itself is the star of the photograph, and by itself it really lacks a lot of visual impact. So I wanted around not far from the campground, when I found all these cottonwood trees and it kept wandering around until I frowned one that framed right over the top of it, and it was perfect. Now the image is a lot more balanced. The cover bridges also framed, and it's a much stronger composition and has been published many times. And really, it's one of my favorite photos of all time. This is Mitad Arch in Grand Staircase Escalon E National Monument in Utah. Even though it's an arch, it really is to start of the photo. But it can also be considered a frame because you naturally want to look through it and see what is behind it. So it's a very popular way of using an arch or an opening or a keyhole or something like that. This flower was photographed in Honduras, and the green leaves are a great frame around the beautiful flower, and that's what really caught my eye. So I framed it up as a way to force your eye through the leaves to reach the flower. This is Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the fall, which, if you have not been there, is some of the most unbelievable scenery in later September and early October. Here I am standing right next to the highway, looking to photograph the river from somewhere when I notice I can look through an opening in these leaves and see the river. This is framing at its best. You can't just look at the leaves you want to look through because an opening has been provided. Here's another example of framing where the subject is surrounded by the juniper tree trunk . There was little fall color in the area at the time, and I spotted this shrub from quite a distance because it really stood out. I thought, What is that color way over there? So I had to go investigate. When I approached, I felt the shrub was not enough on its own as faras the subject. But once I framed it up, it became part of a bigger story. I also process this in black and white and a color combination image, which I'm going to show you how to do later in the course. The's aspen trees are an excellent example of framing, since the closest trees are on the edge of the frame and essentially repeat in the photo as they lead to the background. The difference here is the trees don't really frame an obvious subject. And so in many ways, this image could also fit the compositional guide of lines, which I'll talk about shortly. Here's a different approach to framing a photograph at a boat harbor. The boats were what was really interesting with all their varied colors and a foggy morning , and I had so much to work with when composing the scene and I shot this. Then I moved over and thought this was even better as a frame to really complete the photograph. It brought something into the foreground, which also helped lead the eye to the background. This fence was a perfect way to frame the barn in Bull Town, West Virginia. The I is forced to look through to get the rest of the story, so to speak, and you can really make it out. Here's another way of framing. I was standing inside a barn looking out with this old gate closed. This approach sends you to the background and the old farmhouse way back there. It was captured in Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 5. Leading Lines Composition: Our next compositional element is called scale, and many photographers call it near. Far in many white angle compositions, foreground objects that are closer to the camera appear larger than the same object of the same size. Further from the camera, this is known as diminishing scale and often called the near far approach. In this image, the foreground flowers loom large as those in the background appear to be substantially smaller. Despite the fact that all those flowers are pretty much the same size, this large foreground creates the illusion of depth depth that might appear greater than it really is, And it also helps guide the I to the background and the creek. Here's a photo from New Hampshire taken during autumn color. The creek is what I was photographing, and as I wandered around looking, I noticed these vertical slabs of rock and thought they were perfect for the foreground. I could have shot the creek, but a strong foreground here helps so much and works well in the scale capacity Or better yet, I prefer to call this one the near far. This is an interesting scene, as the entire forced was green and as you can see there's not a lot of tonal differences for a shadows and highlights. It's overcast and what we have instead is green patterns to provide visual depth. I used to semi wide angle around 28 millimeters and filled the scene about 2/3 with ferns and leaving the top 1/3 as the point for the eye to finish. You have to have that for the near far toe work, and it worked very well here. When I photographed this image, I was in Mississippi and these air black eyed Susans in a field, and there were a lot of them, but not much else of interest. The flowers were the subject, and since I wanted a landscape and not a macro close up, I used near far here to emphasize the flowers. In this case, you can look at the flowers and then head to the background where there's not much else and return to the flowers, but in a good way. This waterfall was clearly this star, so the challenge was to find a great foreground, and in this case I found this leading line that told us or really, it tells the I toe follow the line to the waterfall, and it worked well, rounding out the composition. Now here's a slightly different approach to the near far technique, and I should mention that this image has been published numerous times. The small pothole with the fall leaves is what caught my eye to start. I knew just the whole with the leaves would not cut it. So I decided to introduce the river in the upper corner, and this now provides the I a place to finish as it works its way through the image. This here's a great way to draw the eye into the frame. That star is the small water cascade, and it commands the foreground. But the leading line allows the I toe follow through the frame to the background. The near far approach implies there's great death to the whole picture, and I will mention this was from a Grand Canyon rafting trip. This image is valley of Fire and awesome place to photograph in Nevada. These foreground formations, which might be called striated rock formations, made for an incredible foreground, and when close to the camera, creates a great near far image. The formations are large, right in front because there's really not much interesting in the background, like the previous water cascade image, where the water was the most interesting part. You need to finish a composition, so to speak. What I mean is the star of the photo can be close to the camera, but you really need to finish the story by sending the viewer beyond. That's what the large formation on the horizon does here it finishes the story, but when I look at this image, it's destroy hated foreground. That really makes me go. Wow, not the rock on the horizon. Another compositional guideline is called Vanishing Point. It's very powerful approach to creating the illusion of seen depth. In most cases, strong elements in the foreground forced the item move through and arrive at a destination point, which in some cases has vanished and thus the name vanishing Point. It's a tough guideline toe apply in that it's different than receding lines, which don't always take you to the horizon or don't vanish. So here's some examples. This roadway is a perfect vanishing point image as this stripe line and edges of the road take you all the way through the composition to pretty much nowhere or the horizon. Here's another vanishing point, with a long boardwalk taking the I all the way to the horizon. I guess boardwalks are great for illustrating Vanishing Point because here's another one and it almost takes to the rising. But here there are other points of interest that congrats your attention, so this could also be called a leading line. In the end, it does not matter what it's called as long as the photo works. I just mentioned receding and leading lines, so let's talk a little bit more about that. Receding lines are also called Forced Perspective, and it's similar to Vanishing Point. It's a powerful compositional guideline as well, but the difference is, I see it is forced. Perspective does not deliver. You toe a final resting place but rather leads you into a scene. Something in the foreground of the image pulls you into the photograph. This example of a boat dock shows how those lines work in drawing the eye into the picture . The same effect comes from the power lines as they draw you deeper into the photograph. Here's another photo of a roadway with stripe line, and this time, the center line leads you right to the mountain. The fence line here is in Capitol Reef National Park, and it leads you to the barn. But there's more to look at past the barn, and this is the difference. With vanishing point, there could be more to the story. This location in northern Arizona is yet another great example of receding lines leading you through the picture, starting in the foreground. The I wants to start in front and follow through and then repeat the process all over. Not all leading elements need to be lines here. That steps guide the I to the waterfall in the background and in a very inviting way, with the steps much larger in the foreground. It's natural for the eye to be attracted this area first and then move on to the background . 6. Patterns Composition: I'm now going to talk about a compositional guideline that I feel is very important. But I don't think very many photographers look at it like I do, and I call it Color. As a compositional element. We are all attracted to color and color, helps create a motion about a photograph and makes a subject stand out from its surroundings. A small spot of color against a visually non competing background creates a strong point of focus, like a colorful wildflower against a subdued background of a different color. Visually allows the wildflower to stand out from the background when the background is the opposite color of the subject. The two colors complement each other and can intensify the relationship between subject and background. Color can also set a mood. Cooler colors like blue and green often give a feeling of comfort, cool or even cold, while reds and yellows are vibrant and create a feeling of warmth. A snow covered mountain cabin with a warm glow of amber coming from inside the windows draws the eyes and tells the story of a warm and cozy place. You can add substantial impact to your photography when you apply these concepts. When you spot a colorful subject, look toe, isolate that subject with a non competing background of a different or opposite color. While I don't set any criteria when thinking about this compositional guideline, I do think about an image as if it was converted to black on white, and then whether the subject blends with the background or its surroundings. Some subjects that clearly stand out in color might get lost in black and white, so that is my definition of color as a compositional element. Does color make the subject stand out where it might not? Otherwise? I think this image fits that example. Where in black and white, the paintbrush would not stand out like it does here in color. This leaf on the forest floor from the Smoky Mountains is strategically placed in the composition. It also benefits from the color of the leaf over the subdued colored background, and that also has no dominating elements. I thought this scene right here was not really when I first saw it, I was driving down the highway, and I noticed that all the trees were virtually bear, having lost their fall leaves while a couple of trees on the right side still had all of their leaves. I strategically positioned the colored trees compositionally and let the naked bare trees sore to support them. And I will mention that I did go in and do a little post processing work on this to make the making trees look mawr black and white, and I'll show how that's done later on. Here's a nice pattern and texture image. The color of the fishing floats commands attention, and it is supported by the meandering lines and shapes of what it's really sort of gray colored rope. And there's no riel sense of composition here, other than the color. This poppy is definitely the subject the smaller white flowers do. A great job is a supporting background, and they contrast nicely with the poppy, and it's like a perfect example of color commanding a composition. This barn, if it was in black and white, would probably still be interesting. But here as a color image, the warm light of the setting sun really makes the barn and the silo pop off the screen. This has also been a very good selling photograph. These flags certainly pop out due to their color. But this image is sort of a free for all without one central subject. So it's really the color that brings the impact to the photograph. Here is a colorful door from New Mexico, and it's a great symbol of Southwestern flavor. The turquoise color is long associated with the region, and as far as this photo, it really is the color that makes you stop and look. If this was converted into black and white, it would not have as much impact. And the main reason is the lighting is very, very flat. There's no lighting creating any shape or texture to the door or the walls. So here the photograph completely relies on color. Not all scenes have great leading lines or perfect 1/3 elements, but if there's a strong colored subject, consider emphasizing it in your composition to help make it the star of a powerful photo. Patterns and textures are another great compositional guideline. Zooming in on a pattern or a texture can provide some visually powerful images, and I find them really a lot of fun to photograph. The reason is that when shooting patterns and textures, you don't always have a central subject that you can frame perfectly. Instead, you have a pattern, and you need to compose that pattern in a manner that is exciting and, as usual, makes the viewer stop and say, Wow, here are a few examples of pattern and textures. The black eyed Susans have been published, and it's a beautiful repeating pattern. Despite not having one central star or element to the composition, There are no thirds receding lines, just a color pattern, and it works nicely. The same goes for these maple leaves and Sue Mac. Also a repeating pattern. The images. One I stage slightly by rearranging the leaves and adding a couple to get this pattern, and this image has been published. This is a section of a palm frond coming off a palm tree, and it's a pattern, but not a repeating pattern. It's angled lines which lead you around the picture. Can this image cell? If you look at Islands magazine, you might find an advertisement that uses a detail of a palm frond in a small photo insert . So yes, details like this can sell. Here's a repeating pattern that is different due to the colors, while the flowers air the same. They're different species, resulting in different colors. Now, as you're looking at this, I wonder if you're thinking what I was thinking when I took the picture, which was, Wow, I've got to get this shot. Any idea where this was captured? Take a random guess. Well, it was in a casino in Las Vegas, and I shot it with my iPhone. Here's a simple pattern in the sand at the beach. I processes to really make the lighter tones pop out. It was very simple. Don't forget. In some cases, good photography is really simple. Will it sell well? In this case, I'm waiting to see this is the shaded side of some tree bark and the moss that was on the side of the tree. I shot it close up with a 28 to 70 millimeter lens, and there's no tricks here. It all I shot at while photographing general landscapes, and you'll also notice it has a blue tint on the reflective surfaces of the bark, which is basically the blue sky reflecting into the shadow side of the tree. Here is some sand erosion on the beach here. I zoomed in on these eroded patterns, and I really liked the result. But as I do with every image, I wonder if this will ever sell. This pattern of flowers is a zoom in on a basket in the store. I do this a lot using my iPhone. I shoot details of subjects like this and then process and wait to see what happens. Flower seed manufacturers have been known to use thes types of images before, So I photographed pretty much anytime. Have a camera with me, and I see something I want to capture. This was a lot of fun. It's an ice pattern on a windshield of the car. On a very cold morning, I climbed into the front seat of the car and looking out the window up at the blue sky, for the most part, backlit the pattern, and it really has some interesting shapes to it. This image is another one of those weight and sees if it ever gets used by anyone. These air Lupin from a garden, and I found this type of image popular. Sometimes this photo was used in a small local garden magazine, and it's details like this that make them popular since they're not identified by location like a landscape in the Grand Canyon might be. This is cracked mud, and I really do like shooting this type of stuff. When I'm hiking in the desert, it occurs when the wet dirt after rain dries up and the top layer of the mud begins to crack and curl. I have no clue whether this type of image will ever be published, but in some cases you have to take the picture and then just find out. There are so many ways you can frame your photographs compositionally, and you will find many photographs benefit from including more than one compositional guideline within the frame. So explore and tune yourself into the environment around you and take your time to craft good compositions. And just remember, the best selling images are strong on composition. 7. S and Z Composition: Our next compositional guideline is what I call s or Z lines and these air taking what is presented in your subject area and composing the scene within your camera to use those elements to draw the eye on a winding journey through the picture. Similar to receding lines, the S or Z usually draws from the bottom corner of your composition and winds through the picture. In these three photographs, you can see this put to use the boats Forman angle going left that meets the doc pulling right and is topped with the trees on the horizon. Note also that the distant boat is placed in a 1/3 hot spot. This is the Colorado Rockies and fall, and the fence is a perfect Z shape, guiding the eye through the scene. Here, however, the Z is Maurin front and leads the eye straight through. In another example, this photo has sold many times, and it is an s curve, a strong one at that. The road leads us through, and we have something to see on the way through it. Like the coastline. This is the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, and it's also been a very good selling shot, the fence line again zigzags its way through the frame and leads to the mountains. Another compositional element is circles, and these resemble framing in many ways. But of course not. In every case, while circles as a frame essentially grab the eye and direct it through the scene, the subject and it's circles can also be the main event, so to speak. This is the North Window in Arches National Park and Mattias Me up there, firing my camera with a wireless trigger to basically add a sense of scale to the window and show its size. But this really is all about the circle in the north window. This is also another image from the north window captured on the other side, and you can see it's not just the circle because they're sky, which also helps add a sense of scale and balance. While the circle directs the I to another prominent arch way in the background. The butterfly on this sunflower is also a circle of a different kind. The flower supports the butterfly, which is clearly the star of the photo, and the I, which really wants toe wander around. The scene continues to return to the flower with the butterfly. Here we see a barrel cactus shot with a 15 millimeters fisheye lens, and in this case, the subject generally is not seen as a circular subject. Rather, it's the way the wide angle lens per trois, the subject and creates that circle. I was so fascinated by this large rock, and I spent quite a bit of time looking for a composition that worked really well. I really found the rock more interesting than the surroundings, so eventually I framed it huge in the middle of the frame to make it dominate the photograph. This created a visual roadblock that in some ways is disturbing because we naturally want to see what's behind. But it makes a statement that this rock is what the photograph is all about. These cactus fit the definition of circles, and the fact that there are many make it very interesting, almost like a pattern, which, of course, will talk about coming right up. The next compositional element is lines like S and Z lines. Straight lines could be used to lead the eye through a photo or frame it, or even be used in stacking manner. When space is divided by a line, it may provide more importance. Toe one of the divided areas. If a line crosses the composition, dividing top and bottom, the bottom will appear heavier than the top, even when they're of equal size. Here's an image from Colorado that has a nice selection of lines, and the image would have stood on its own with just that simple composition by adding the green tree in the left 1/3 mark. The overall composition brings much more excitement and another strong element to the photograph, and it also kind of breaks up the pattern of the lines. This photo shows even more vertical lines, but in this case, the added element is the backlit leaves, which sort of offset the vertical tree trunks and adds much more impact to the photo. Here's another composition from Colorado that shows vertical lines but also a diagonal from the upper right to the lower left, which adds more interest to the composition by sort of breaking up the monotony of the lines. This is probably my best selling nature photograph, and it's also made of vertical lines taken in Redwood National Park. There are many things working here that have made this image successful. The vertical lines and the fog and the morning light starting to burn through the fog begins to very softly shaped the trees. The lines air the compositional element, and the fog and the light are the added surprises. Here's another image of lines captured after the horrible Yellowstone fires that seemed to burn all summer back in 1989 the next summer. The flowers were phenomenal, and I captured this image, which has been published numerous times. It incorporates vertical lines and also has some Z type lines. Lines just don't have to be trees and nature, and in this case it is the side of a structure and an old mine in the desert. The old gears and wheels, combined with weathered wood, made for an interesting subject, showing lines both horizontal and vertical. 8. Negative Space Composition: So, uh, I'm gonna talk about stacking, which is a term for arranging elements toe overlap in the composition. And what is really important here with this guideline is that stacking creates a sense of depth. This approach can work for many subjects, such as trees in the forest, and it's one of the visual approaches that worked really well with your telephoto lens, or what I call long lens landscape photography. This first images Antelope Canyon and it's really a good example of stacking where the foreground formations overlap the formations in the background, and this creates that sense of depth. I find stacking a little bit tough to apply to a lot of subjects. You really have to have something that's going to align perfectly to make this work. Here's another example of stacking, but this could also be framing, which proves the point that not every image is going to have one guideline or another, but could have many. The tree on the left and the tree on the right are stacked in a manner with one closer and the other further, and this combination of two frames really makes the subject look good. Another false compositional rule is that subjects or horizons should never be centered. Rather, everything should be the one side or the other and divided up in tow. 1/3 elements. Well, that's baloney. If it works, I say Go with it. This waterfall is perfectly centered and works wonderfully, and this image has sold a couple times. I also shot it, compositionally left and compositionally right as well as vertical. This is called a cannonball con creation, and it comes from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. It works perfectly with the concretions centered in the composition. It also roughly has 1/3 top, which I believe keeps the image balanced, and it also adds a feeling of depth. The skull and the snow here cannot be captured any other way. In my opinion, it wouldn't make any sense to have it on the left or to have it on the right. So it's a good example of where ignoring the guidelines and just making good photographs is what matters centering the skull here made for a well balanced, well composed image. There's always a lot of talk going on about centering the horizon line in your photographs , but again, I ignore those. I don't center him very often, but I will. On occasion. I do to suggest that you have to be careful, because not every subject works when the horizon is centered. But so many do especially reflections in this image. It's mount shucks in in Washington state, and it has a perfect reflection in the lake. And in cases like this, you want the Horizon Line Center because it gives you equal way to the top and equal weight to the reflection. And it indicates that both of those are important to the success of the picture. This image not only centers the horizon, but with the setting sun Onley hitting the mountain, which happens to strategically be placed on the 1/3 spot on the right. It really makes this about the mountain and a pretty powerful image. It's almost like a panorama, and I did, by the way shoot zoomed in horizontal, vertical and a whole lot of other compositions, and this is the one I really like the best. Here's another image, and this vertical mountain photograph is well balanced with its reflection. Editors really like these types of photographs because they use them on covers, and this is when they need images that have room to add text to the picture without it really interfering with the picture. And I'm gonna talk a lot more about that coming up pretty soon. Negative space could be a useful tool when creating an effective composition. It's generally referred to a space that is around a subject, and it can be any tonal value, like white, black or even a strong color. I myself have always looked at negative space as black and most of my images used black. But I included a few others here to show you some differences. Here. The sand dunes have a leading edge that guides the eye up and then to the right side and then the background. The black has no detail in it, and thus the eye does not wanna look at it. So you can view negative space as a way to force the viewer's eye somewhere else within your composition, and especially if you want to support the main subject. This is in Arches National Park, and I found a pedestal rock, which is a rock that is balanced and as a smaller base than a top I was able to sort of crawl under it and use it as a roof of a negative space to force the viewer's eye to the big formation in the background. I should also mention that the way to force the dark areas of negative space to go black is to expose for the highlights side of the subject, and that would be the big rock in the background. If you give preference to the highlights and not the shadows in your exposure, you can force the shadows to go very dark. But with today's digital cameras and their long dynamic range, I have found that every image I shoot where I want shadows toe, have no detail and go black. Well, I have to process the image and forced those areas to go black on the computer. But once it's done, they can really look great. This is the Oregon coast, and I pre visualized this scene is a black and white and very high. In contrast, the rock on the left is the negative space, and the way the rock points at the pool and the ocean is aided by that negative space from the Black Rock. Now Here's just the opposite. A bison in the snow in Yellowstone and the rest of the scene is almost featureless, making it perfect as negative space.