Back to Photo Basics: How to Tell More of the Story with Composition | Cameron Dantley | Skillshare

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Back to Photo Basics: How to Tell More of the Story with Composition

teacher avatar Cameron Dantley

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Project Assignment


    • 3.

      Rule of Thirds


    • 4.

      Leading Lines


    • 5.

      Negative Spaces


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Depth of Field


    • 8.



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About This Class

In this class, we'll focus on 5 different rules of composition: Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Patterns, Depth of Field and Negative Space. We'll study each technique in detail, so you can learn how to take your photos to the next level.

This class is available to all skill levels! Whether you're a seasoned photographer or someone picking up a camera for the first time, you'll learn how to maximize composition techniques to improve your photographic storytelling so you can get more out of your photos.

In my opinion, composition is the strongest aspect of photography, and learning these techniques will enhance the way you view your work.

Meet Your Teacher

My name is Cameron Dantley and I'm a photographer based out in Chicago, Illinois. I've always had an interest in photography since I was a child, but decited to put that interest into action within the last three years. I began with just shooting and editing with my iPhone and then decided I wanted to learn how to use an actual camera. So I grabbed the Canon T2i my parents weren't using and started taking pictures of everything in sight. I started researching and practicing as much as I could. Now, I've pretty much focused in on two to three specific areas, Street, Cityscape, and Music or concert photography. I feel that this is an art form that will challenge you, frustrate you, push you beyond your comfort zone, all while giving you so much happiness and fulfilment. Feel free to ... See full profile

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1. Intro: they still shared. Thanks for joining me Weddings, Camera, Danley and this class is back photo basics telling more stories with composition. So for me, I started in photography about 34 years ago, and it all started when I download is soft, Amazing photograph being uploaded to space off people's iPhones. So pretty much became obsessed with protecting that point on. I started with just my phone and then moved on to buy my first. Yes, it was original Can t and um and really, really focused on street photography and architecture. Recently, I got more into actually shooting music concerts, which has been amazing. And a lot of techniques that I've learned from Shooting Street Photography has been able to incorporate those and shooting concerts. So what I'm gonna do this fast is put some five different techniques. First will be leading lines. Second will be shooting rule of thirds. The third will be shooting patterns before being that field 50 beaches in negative space. What word is that? All these techniques you can use across different types and different styles photography, and it's a really good way once you use these techniques, it's really wait, do you take your photos from good degree? So thanks for joining me. Let's get started 2. Project Assignment : Alright, guys. So this project, what you do is focus on catching one shot for technique, so your project will include five different chance get those techniques will be rule of thirds leading lines, shooting patterns, definite feels and also negative space. So I want to see a variety. If you want to do something just around your home, that's perfectly fine. But actually what you kind of get out and try and live, please, for these different techniques around the city. That way it's gonna be a lot more fun, more town before years left, so let's start. 3. Rule of Thirds: Okay, So for our first lesson, we're going to discuss the rule of thirds for me. I think it's one of the easiest techniques to grasp. The easiest way for me to describe how it works is imagine two lines going across your frame. So I mean, if you're doing this on a DSLR or even, you know, an iPhone or and Anjali phone, it works the same way. So imagine two lines going across your frame, two lines going horizontally and then two lines going vertically. So for this shot here, um, I just left it as I shot it. Then I'll show you have the rule of thirds will actually actually come into play here. So to me, this whole section right here to the right of the subject is a little too busy for me. And she's more centered, actually a in the shot. But what? Using the rule of thirds, I think it'll it'll make her more make her pop more as a subject. So here in light rooms, is the saw from using. So there is a crop tool right here is a button was pressed right here, and I'll move. You can see actually the two lines right there. So here's the horizontal lines and hear the vertical lines. So you have these nine squares to feel pretty much so here. Now she's Mawr. She's in these two intersections right here. That's the thing, too. If you're using a subject, say someone on the street, you want to put them at one of these four intersecting points nine times out of 10 that will make your composition stand out a lot more. So we're gonna scoot her into these two intersecting points right here and then what I would do just to make sure you're just straight in the photo. Make sure it's make sure it's all all together. So now for me, I like this competition a lot more because again, this whole section to the right of the subject was too busy for me. Now it just seems a little bit cleaner, you know, just using the rule of thirds. So that's one example I'll show you to Mawr. Here's another example of a portrait again. This is actually my brother. Um, we were in Cincinnati and where I'm actually from and this was his old elementary school. They're actually turning it to condos right now. So we kind of snuck in this kind look around and, um, you know, came with this porch of him looking out the window. So right now, again, he's center in the frame and it's just a lot of a lot of empty space here. So again, using the rule of thirds and using this crop tool again, you can scoot him in MAWR to, you know, make him kind of pop. Maura's a subject of the other photo, so over here it's fine. Actually, you kind of have his shadow or this reflection right here, kind of intersecting with the other two points on the other side of the other side of the frame. So you have these intersecting points right here, shadow and then also him is the main subject right here in these points. So also kind of balances out everything in the competition as well. So I think it's just a stronger a stronger photo, as opposed to you can see what's it. It's a stronger photo than before, with everything just wide open like that. So I mean, he center, and not to say you can't always that you can never use your subject. Dead center of a friend. But, um, it's a lot of times it just just makes it stand out. Or if you actually had them at one of these floor intersecting points. Okay, so for the next photo actually gonna do landscape shot. So this is, uh, let's see, fits a pavilion in Chicago. Um, Millennium Park. And so for this, actually, the rule of thirds is gonna come differently. So you're going to use this whole section down here where the grass is? Uh, you know, you filled up three these squares, and then you have the intersecting points again. But then it's just a good separation is what else is going on in the background. I mean, you have You have all these things patterns of these beams and the speakers here, as well as the buildings in the background. But the grass, I think, really holds down The composition for everything else is kind of like grasses. Comic foundation, obviously, honestly, in my opinion, um, to everything else. So when you're doing these in landscaping in landscape type photography, lots of is what you have to do is decide on what you'd rather have Mawr off. Would you rather have mawr sky and background, or would you rather have your foundation like the ground or whatever? So, for me, I like the grass. I think it's a good contrast to everything else going on in the background with the buildings and in all the patterns and lines with, um, with the, uh, the structure of the actual pavilion. So it's a good way to kind of hone everybody in or the viewer in to the grass and then everything going on behind it. So again, rule of thirds. To me, it's kind of the easiest to grasp just because a lot of times to and you can put your grid on your DSLR as well as your your smartphones these days. So it's a good way to kind of just make it easy and make sure you put your your your subject at one of those four intersecting points. Nothing you could do, especially with your DSLR these days, is if you press down your shutter button halfway, it'll focus on your subject. And so what I like to do a lot of times was called Focus and recompose, and a lot of times you do that with an actual human subject. So say again, Take this picture of my brother. Um, So what I want to do is actually focus on him and then move him to one of those intersecting points. It doesn't necessarily show up through your viewfinder, but if you have a live view, you can use it. Um, and even on your phone again, you can. It's in. I think it's in your settings options. So just actually, just moving that That's a bit to the actual intersecting points. So But I know what you're DSLR. I do it all the time with focus and recomposed. So you just focus on that subject and that'll lock in the focus, and then you can compose it any way you want to make a move in the inner any intersection in that rule of thirds. Great. So, um, as far as it was real Thurston as faras for pool. If there's goes, that's pretty much the foundation of it. Um, And again, you can use this pretty much if you're just shooting, you know, a birthday party, your factional shooting street or a few shooting picture of your dog. Whatever it just makes it a lot more interesting for the viewer. A supposed is having a subject dead set right in the middle of the frame. So I can't wait to get come up with this. And if you have any questions, you know, let me know. Thanks a lot. 4. Leading Lines: alright, leading lines. So when dealing with leading lines, the cool thing about them is that they're literally everywhere and you can find them all over the place. And the cool thing is you can dictate how you use them and that this is your first time really been thinking or hearing about leaving lines. What they are is extremely simple. All they are just lines that lead your eyes to a specific point in your photo. Here's an example of some pretty blatant leading lines. This is a place, um, a railroad track over in Pilsen, which is an area here in Chicago. Um, where last times it's it's pretty empty, um, pretty left alone so you can go over there and shoot a lot. Ah, somebody's in mind. We went a bigger and I had never been over there. So end up climbing this train here and, ah, I mean, they're just lines everywhere. So you have these track right here, These tracks over here, as well as the train itself, all leading down to this point specifically. So, um, again, if you want to get more creative with it, I could have, but I mean, just I just like the lines alone. I thought that it was a pretty cool composition. So, um, but if you want to get a little bit more different with it, you can Ah, here's a shot of the Santa Monica pier. Um, where? Actually, I think there's a couple different lines here. That GP use is probably more. But just just to point out a couple, obviously you have the pier itself kind of kind of directing you to to the water and the horizon over here. And then you also have these stilts right here. That also act is leaving lines a lot of times. If you want to use a subject in your photos with leading lines, it's great to position him, um, anywhere. I mean, if you want to put him like safe, put somebody right here or even down here. You could do that. And again, you use these lines right here and right here, right here to direct to the subject itself. And again for this shot. I just wanted to direct the view or to the water, the sky, and also the horizon out here. Um, here's once a little bit different. This is also in L. A. I I used the the lights from the cars, actually as my leading lines. And you also have these buildings right here that are leading to this section over here. It was actually kind of put you in a m. A rule of thirds type of composition. So, um, where there's a break in the buildings right here is probably where you see, um, those lines intersecting between the two horizontal and vertical lines. So, um, you have the cars here that are leading your eye to the specific point, and you also have these buildings here that are leading your eyes to a specific point. And so Ah, it's just pretty simple to get creative with these and draw your viewers to where you want them to see and what specific point you want them to see. Here's another ah, famous total out in L. A. Um, and so you have lines everywhere again. You have the slow shutter of this car going through the tunnel. You have the lines right here. Um, right here, right here. Here. Like I said, leading lines are at their everywhere, and that's what makes him really fun to shoot is just the way how you interpret them and how you put your take on those lines that are present it. It's pretty cool to actually see these out in about and use them for anything from portrait's to landscaping. Uh, any types of shots. So get creative with these. It doesn't have to be straight on like I showed you with with the train. Um, I mean, if you want to. By all means, you could try something like that. Um, if you want to do something is a little more deceptive. Like like the pier shot here. I would love to see some examples of something like that, Um, again, a little bit more blatant when you have something totally directing your eye to to the center of the image. Like right here. The opening of the tunnel. Try that as well. Um, What these? Just get out and get creative. Have fun with it. That's the whole point of the project. Whole point classes to learn something and have some fun. The process. So look forward to seeing you guys come up with and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks a lot 5. Negative Spaces: All right. So let's talk about negative space. Negative space is actually really, really cool if you do it correctly. And negative in this in this regard doesn't mean anything bad. So what? I try and do it amusing negative space, if I can. It's more about just highlighting the environment around some subjects. So, like, for this for this example, this was a shot. I spoke here in Chicago. I think it was last year and I took this. We're having a lot of crazy sunsets, and so I really want to showcase the sunset. But I didn't wanna just show a picture of this guy for me. I thought it was kind of like a little bit if I did that. So I added these two buildings here ones, the Hancock Building. And I'm not really sure what's building this is, but to me, it it adds a lot more to the photo rather than if it was just this guy. So I was still able to use the rule of thirds here, but putting these on that grid so I still think the composition is really good, but again, and it also shows a lot of scale to just how massive this guy waas And you know, the contrast of the dark building here with with the colors of the sky. So what you could really do with with negative spaces get creative. I feel like as far as out of these five different techniques, this is probably the way to get more artistic with. Here's another example negative space. Have a shot. I did. This is out in California. I was actually on Santa Monica Pier where, um, this bird, you know, see, goes flying by. You have the Pacific Ocean mountains in the background here, along with the sky. So again, just it's just such a cool, cool balance of of, you know, you have the bird here in the foreground, but you have all this empty space here. I think the bird, you know, just as a lot more to the photo is that there was just just the water and justice guy in the mountains back here. But, um, again, it's just such an awesome way to showcase either the environment or, if you really, really want to focus on your subject, negative space is a great way to do that. Here's a shot I did for a project a social media campaign for someone here in Chicago. She wrote a book, and what she wanted for the first part of the campaign was, you know, a lot of subjects to be really kind of sad and almost depressing. So, um, we actually shot this in a really dark back room, which is one light. And it was, you know, just just focusing on the subject here in her face and even with the clothes she was wearing with dark clothes and, you know, the background just being completely blacked out, you know, just really I really just focuses strictly on the subject. So it's a great way to get artistic. And like I said, kind of justice more just moody shot that was ableto able to capture by using negative space. I mean, you totally feel kind of, I mean, supposed to be depressed, so you kind of feel kind of sad, even looking at it. But it's a negative faces. Just such an awesome way to really either do one of two things, show the environment around the subject or make the subject pop with, you know, since there's nothing else here I goes directly to where I wanted to, um, so try and giant and toy around with this as much as you can get very artistic with it if you want, Be sure to try and use the rule of thirds if you can just kind of make the composition more balanced. But again, I love negative space. I think is really awesome. It's fun thing to play around with. It could be something. Just if you have a subject to someone walking towards walking along a huge wall, a huge, empty wall, I mean, it's It's a great way to show scale as well, to see how large a certain either the background can be compared to another subject. Like I was saying with this photo, with how massive this guy waas and these are small buildings, so they look tiny compared to how massive this guy was. So it's a great way to show scale. It's a great way to be artistic, and it's a great way we really make your subjects pop. So looking forward to you, two guys go with with your projects with negative space 6. Patterns: Okay, so let's talk about shooting patterns. Shooting patterns is actually pretty fun as well. Um, because there's so many patterns. Just everywhere you look, it's just a matter of paying attention. And if you can catch one, um, it's it's actually it's really, really cool to actually get to shoot those. So, like, for here, for example, here is ah, bridge in Chicago. It's a really I mean, a lot of people shoot this bridge a lot, but there, so many different angles. You can do it and something different ways you can do it. One thing that really attracted me to this bridge and even the patterns in this bridge is that at the right time of day, not only do you have these, like triangles right here going alongside the bridge, but they also cast the cool shadows too. So there's tons of patterns you can see here. Um, just, you know, and again, kind of like we were talking about what balance and symmetry. A lot of times, you'll find these leading lines in these patterns as well. So I mean, you have these lines right here. You have this line right here, even down here going straight down, the down the bridge. But again, it's a kind of thing where the more you notice these types of things, the more they'll stand out to you. And you can get even more creative when you're shooting. So here's another one's a little more simple. Um, just some stairs that are leading to the L here in Chicago as well. So you have a lot here. You have the lines here with patterns. You have the steps themselves, um, the hand banisters going up or down. So again, it's this thing where the more you pay attention in them or you train your eye to start looking and seem seeing these types of things, the more you can shoot him and get a lot more creative. Um, here again, the pattern that you have with these yellow triangles right here even going all the way over to, um, like this hallway kind of turns a corner. So even over here within the pattern, you know, So that's how you can start getting creative with things. It doesn't necessarily have to be like a straight on looking straight at, you know, straight at the pattern type of composition um The more you play around with them, the more in your creative. And again you see the pattern back here within, uh, the pattern within these yellow triangles. But what I want you to do for your projects is try and incorporate one or two subjects into the pattern. Here you have these pillars here with the others building. You also have the shadows going right here. But you have this one guy standing right here. The kind of breaks it up a little bit. You can even see there's a bus right here, which also kind of breaks up the pattern. So to me, it just kind of adds a little bit more to the composition. You can have something kind of break up the pattern, especially if you can put it into a rule of thirds type of situation. Um, you know, it just really makes that that subject pop even more. As a matter of fact, when I was taking this shot, someone else walked by. And, you know, I really like how, see to me added even more balance to the composition. So you have the pattern. Like I said, with these pillars right here, you have this guy right here. You have the bus still, But then this lady here, to me, it kind of adds balance because you have both, um, this guy and this girl here breaking of the pattern. But you also have, like, her, her shadow right here, which breaks up the pattern of the white and black and white in the black and white in black. So what I want to do for your projects is try and find a way to incorporate a subject where they break up the pattern a little bit. In that way, it'll kind of it kind of stand out a little bit. Maurin the composition, Um, this last example is this is a building in downtown Chicago, actually still working this building for anything. And before I got into photography, I thought it was a cool atrium, but I never really paid that much attention to it. But, um, a lot of people just shoot straight up from here, the square right here, but getting creative with it, you know, just stepping along the side of the actual beside the actual Adrian, You see all these other patterns besides just the main square So you have all these squares here, but these they stand a little bit more because they're darker than just a straight up glass right here in the middle. So, um, again, there's so many different leading lines and these patterns are so many different angles, you can shoot him. You can try rule of thirds type situation with these, um, patterns, just fun. And like I said, the more you start to train your eye on, the more you realize that they're everywhere, it's a lot more fun to shoot him. So I really want to use you guys come up with and get really creative with these as much as you can't, um, if you want to shoot the patterns straight on, that's fine, you know, But I would like to see you try and do something. Um, maybe where you can incorporate even the other lessons that we taught. If you can incorporate all the things that we've talked about in one class in this class and one shot that's gonna be a money maker, that's gonna be killer. So, um, yeah, go out there and try and find some again like they're everywhere, and that's the fun thing about it. Used to train your eye to see him. So I really, really want to see if you guys come up with. So again, try and find a way where you can incorporate a subject into breaking up the pattern, because then it just really makes those subject pop. And it really actually makes the patterns to end out, too. So, um, look forward to you guys come up with. And if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up. All right, guys. 7. Depth of Field: Okay, so for the next lesson will discuss step the field. So the cool thing about death of fields that are really isolates certain parts of your of your fogo. Um and also, one thing to remember when you're talking about depth of field is that it's more about your f stop and your distance to your subject than the actual focal length of your lens. So, um, if you're using, you know, say something like Cannon T five came with the stock lens, you can still get a depth of field. That's pretty cool. Even though those stock wins the aperture, maybe around around before, you know for a slows will go. This shot was actually shot with a 24 millimeter, one point for actually 50 millimeter, and I did it at 1.6. So my appetite was it was a lot more wide then say a stock lanes. But you can still achieve certain certain looks or what's called Boca. Um, with, you know, just stock. Lin's just more about distance. Your subject. So, um, again, Boca is when you have something in focus on your frame or in your photo, but everything else around it is is blurred out, so it really just draws your viewers I into what you want them to see. So I mean, you can see here in the background around here that you can see more of the guitar. You might be able to make up this neck of the guitar, but I really want to just focus on on the guitar player's hand here. So another cool thing can do with depth of field. Is that kind of talking kind of going back to when we were talking about rule of thirds and the whole focus and recomposed aspect of that? Here's a shot from the same the same concert where I want to focus on this thing's keyboard player here as opposed to this one. But obviously this guy was closer to me, but I just want to get this guy focused. So again, um, being able to choose the focal point of the middle, the middle musician here and again, my app patrols at a 1.6. So you're gonna get a lot more Boca and this being out of focus and all this right here being at a focus. But I just want to focus on on this actual is actual position here, So it's a cool way to tell a story. It shows that there's actually a lot more going on besides just this one, this one main subject. There's a lot of people on stage when you have this guy here is playing guitar. This guy's playing keyboards, and this was another keyboard player. So there's a good way to It's a good way to add more to your narrative more to your story when you can just focus on one specific part of your of your photo, and everything else is kind of blurred out. Um, heres something completely different. Um, I shot some photos for a gym that's actually round the corner from my house, and they do a lot of stuff with kettlebells and kind of a CrossFit kind of feel and so want to I want to show that with this photo. So here you have, you know, Kettle Bell right here and again, even going back the rule of thirds. It's a little bit off center, so it's not right smack dab in the middle of your frame, but you have people in the background. I was to see them working out, and then you can kind of piece two and two together, That saying Okay, well, this is obviously a gym, but you also see the subjects in the background. So you kind of get more to the story there. So one thing is really cool again about depth of field is that you're able to isolate certain parts of your photo while also telling more to the story with the background. So you can't really see these people who can't make out their faces. You can kind of make out what's going on. You can see this guy's, um, started to do a push up back here. This lady is doing some pushups as well, you know? So you get the whole idea of this is a June, this people exercising. But the main focus is on this kettle bell right here. So, um, again, depth of field is something that's really awesome that you condone, really? Just single out one specific point of your photo, but also tell the rest of story with things going around the background. So, um, one thing to know about the field on and trying to get to technical here is lower your number or the more wide open your number, which is gonna be a lower number. Like I said, I was shooting like this one is, uh I shot this in 2.5, but I was really close to the kettle bell. So the wider your aperture, the more light you're gonna let into into your photo. If you're getting into higher numbers, say, like, 16 or 17 your photos actually gonna become a lot darker. And you have to overcompensate that with your shutter speed, and you're so again not to get too technical there. But, uh, But when you do make your your say you go around 16 or 17 f stop, a lot more is gonna be in focus. So you if I shot this shot, say, at you know F 16 you would see everybody in the background as well as a kettle bell. But I just want to isolate this one, This one subject here. So again, it's something just to learn about depth of field is that you can actually manipulate it. But it's just all about your aperture in your distance to your subject, so you don't have to be shooting wide open all the time to get such a Boca in the background again. This is just I shot this a 2.5 and it's just how close I was to the subject. So just remember that going forward, that depth of field, you can play around with a lot. But it's more again about your distance. Okay, so one good way to practices is and I would love to see this in your projects is focused. Have something where you can focus on something in the foreground and then maybe something in the background. So in the foreground, I mean, like this kettlebells right here, right smack in front of my limbs. But say, for this shot, this keyboard players Maurin the background. Obviously this guy was in the foreground, so I would love to see how you kind of play around with these types of shots and see what kind of images you can come up with. So again, it's all about your distance and your f stop, so I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 8. Conclusion : Thank you so much. Stop my taking this class with me to the people. Still share. I really, really appreciate it. 1000. Thanks to you as well. So for the slacks. Really? All I wanted a few doesn't learn some things. Maybe Look at some things differently in composition. Hopefully this will take your photos to another level. I want you to have fun doing these projects. A lot of positive feedback from a lot of students in the class. Let's connect with one another. If you have any questions, please feel free to write and asked me to help out messes. I can. So thanks again and forcing your projects.