When I talk to photographers around the world the universal frustration is feeling like they’re getting capable with their cameras but have no idea where to begin with the creative stuff, specifically composition. They know their photographs can be way stronger, they just don’t know where to begin.

It’s relatively easy to master the basics of the camera, but those aren’t what make our photographs more compelling or more captivating. It’s not really buttons and dials that make images that cause people to react.

What people respond to within the photograph are things like the decisions we make about what goes where, which moments we choose, and how the elements within a scene relate to each other. In other words: composition.

There’s a whole language to photography and it’s that language that many photographers take way too long to learn, bound by rules and platitudes.

Take a few moments to consider this video and the one thing you can do right now to begin changing your compositions for the better, stronger, and way less accidental.

Composition isn’t a talent, it’s not something only for the really creative. It’s about principles you can learn and possibilities you can play with.

In this video I also introduce my course The Compelling Frame—the online course I created to help photographers like you understand and use the visual language of composition to make photographs that are more intentional, more creative, and more powerful.

If you’re looking for a change, if you know your photographs are on their way to being technically good but you want more, you want not just to photograph what your world looks like but what it feels like, then check out The Compelling Frame.

This year The Compelling Frame is only open for enrollment from January 10, until the end of January 15, 2021. Not only that, but this year I’m strictly limiting the number of students and will close enrollment at 300 new students so we don’t overwhelm my mentoring community to which you will be invited.

That’s 6 days and the only opportunity to enroll this year, so if you’re interested, now is the time. You can check out The Compelling Frame now, and starting on Monday you can enroll until the end of this Friday at TheCompellingFrame.com

Introducting The Photographer’s Process

This year I’m also excited to introduce an option to purchase The Photographer’s Process, a 14-episode video series about the process of making photographs, from start to finish. It’s probably easier to show you than explain it, so I’d like to invite you to watch Episode 12 for free. Just head to TheCompellingFrame.com and scroll about 2/3 down the page, you’ll find it. The Photographer’s Process makes a fantastic addition to The Compelling Frame and  the introductory pricing won’t be offered again.

The Compelling Frame is a really robust course, something you can sink your teeth into for a while. It is not for someone who just wants to learn a few tips and a couple rules and then move on. It’s big and deep and if you do the work your photographs will become so much stronger.  The course is big but not overwhelming. It’s self-paced so there’s no rush, and the content is always yours and all available for downloading in case you want to access it offline.

If you don’t feel like you have the time right now the lessons and materials, and all the bonuses for The Compelling Frame will be there for you when you’re ready. But you still have to enroll. The Compelling Frame won’t be open for enrollment for another year after this Thursday, or as soon as we get 300 enrollments.

Whether you enroll or not, if you’re at the point where you’re making images that are, for the most part, technically satisfying, there’s a good chance your next leaps forward will be gained in studying composition, not getting more gear. You can do this.

For the Love of the Photograph,
David duChemin

Comments

  1. Bonjour. I am interested in your vision of photography but unfortunatly i am not good enough with english to follow all it in english. Instead reading is easier for me. Wich one of your book do you think i could read first. I already read A beautiful anarchy.
    I love your work and i believe photography is a passion and can be more a way to connect with people. I have just one camera (Fuji) and not much accessories but i love to see, and feel the beauty around. Thanks to read me and i hope my english is not too bad. Have a great day 🙂

  2. Hi and good Morning!
    So happy to be on board. I got the course first time this morning and have started to do the first exercises. Since I don’t have a printer, I have ordered my photos and they will hopefully arrive on Tuesday. However, I could not restrain myself from starting to answer the 10 questions and — wow. That I liked the photos, I knew. But I had no idea why. And now I do!!!
    Even with the 3 Videos you sent in the last few days, I can see improvement in my pictures. To do things consciously makes a huge difference.
    I will have to take my time to do the whole course, which is fine, I tend to work very quickly through courses, but some things just can’t be rushed.
    So just – thank you!
    Greetings from Switzerland, Eilwen

    1. Wonderful! You snuck in early! Well done. I am so pleased you are already enjoying it. Taking time is probably better as there is a lot in that course and it’ll stick better if you do things slowly and really internalize them. Thank you, Eilwen. Have a fantastic day, and thanks so much for your enthusiasm and support. 🙂

  3. I’m super intrigued, David! I’ve followed you for a while and I have some of your books. Couple of questions:

    – What kinds of exercises are included in the course? Could you share an example?
    – Is there any way to get feedback (from you or peers) on our work when we do those exercises?
    – Could you tell us a bit more about how your community works?

    1. Good morning, Raj. Happy to answer what I can. There are creative exercises in every lesson, all of them designed to get you thinking more about the visual design of images and what you resonate with, personally, in terms of composition. Some include your own images, some are based on images I give you, but all of them ask you to study, to answer questions, to consider the role of certain elements of composition and how they function within the photograph. There is no specific way to get feedback from me as that wouldn’t be scalable, but the course includes membership in The Vision-Driven which is a community hosted within FB in which you can find like-minded people and initiate conversation, ask questions, etc. It’s informal, but it’s a way to talk about similar things with people who’ve taken my courses, and if you need to get my attention, or ask a question, it’s the best way to get my attention as well. If, on balance, this all sounds like something you’re interested in, I am sincere about the money back guarantee which allows people to enroll in good faith, try it out, and it it’s not your thing, just let me know within 30 days and I’ll happily refund your tuition.

  4. What are your thoughts on complete control in the creation of an image. Your comments on tips/tricks/shortcuts are the opposite of craft lead me to conclude that you are directing me to improving my craft. What about the photographer taking it one step further in the creative process? ‘Leaving Dafen’ podcast was spot on in posing the question are we just imitating or copying (i.e. putting the tripod in the same holes as the photographer before us) or should the goal be to create an image that meets our initial goal. (compelling, tells a story, communicates emotion, connects with the viewer etc.) I am not interested in rehashing the photography vs digital art discussion but what if there is a shadow that can be removed to make the image more compelling? What if you change the colour/saturation/brightness of a jacket etc.? I watched a great documentary ‘Vermeer: Master of Light’ in which it reviewed one his paintings. It discussed the use of colour, light. composition etc. but for me the video showed me how he had complete control of everything on the canvas. I think that it is easy to get caught up in the arguments of how an image was made, processed or altered vs is the image compelling or did the image meet your initial goal?
    This is where craft moves into art and the camera is simply one of the tools.
    Always enjoy your thoughts as they inspire and motivate.

    1. Hi Richard – I’m of the opinion that, in art, anything goes. Skip the ethics in journalism question, or questions of efforts to deceive, and bring it down to a question of vision and craft, and I think anything you can bring to the canvas is a fair play if that’s the way you prefer to create. Art doesn’t require that we all use the same methods, embrace the same constraints, or even share the same reasons for art-making. You might do things for different reasons and with different means than I might ever employ, but my own preferences have nothing to do with your work and vice-versa. I think the more control we have, through mastery of the tools of our craft, the more choices we have. Whether we use them is up to us. So, for example, I don’t mind giving the light a little help, doing some dodging and burning to better interpret a scene, but it’s not my preference to replace a sky or do heaving cloning. To do so wouldn’t satisfy me. It would feel false to me. But would I ever dare to criticize another for doing so? I hope not. How that work is presented and what it is alleged to represent, ie. veracity, is another issue. No one who hosts a podcast called a Beautiful Anarchy should be expected to advocate for colouring inside the lines or for a standard way of making art to which we all agree. What a colourless world that would be. 🙂

  5. I really love your approach to the photography, I have ALL your books and I have read them ALL at least twice, I die for being in one of your online courses but I am from a third world country where the price of your classes are really difficult to pay… maybe, you can think in a less expensive option for us??… one that we can afford… I know your time and effort is invaluable but I really want to have the chance of being in your clases… I am sure I would make great advances with your mentory… just think about it… For the Love of the Photograph!!!

    1. Hello, Veronica. Thank you so much for this. I know that some of what I offer, like my courses and in-person workshops, will always be out of reach for some. It’s one of the reasons I offer so much of what I do for free. I don’t know if it will help but we will be offering a 6-month payment plan on the courses. It won’t cost any more, but will break the payments into 6 smaller pieces. If this is something you’re interested in, please get in touch and we’ll work it out with you. You can email Cynthia at support@craftandvision.com – she’ll be happy to help you. Another option is just taking The Photographer’s Process on its own. I’ll send you an email. 🙂

  6. One funny thing I always notice is that the photographers who say the gear won’t get you there all are using top of the line gear.

    1. The photographers using good gear understand the place of good gear. They understand what it does and doesn’t do. Just the same way I have a kick-ass Les Paul guitar in my office that I know will never sound as good as it should because I can’t play it terribly well, but I appreciate that it could. I’m have no illusions about that guitar, but I still love it. Most photographers like the gear. I do. But the wise ones understand that gear alone doesn’t replace the vision, creativity, and long journey of learning your craft. And, really, who should you believe? Isn’t it the photographer with his hands daily on quality gear that might be relied on to say, “it’s not the gear”? Shouldn’t they be the ones to know? I wonder, do young musicians discount the older musicians when they are told the music is in them and not the piano, only because the older musician plays the best piano they can find?

  7. Hi David,
    When I go through my photos, what I notice is that the ones that stand out are taken in France and Arizona. Both have great light. Is it just the light? Is it that I feel better when I’m there 😂. I’m living right now in Scotland and I’m just not hitting my sweet spot. My photos usually don’t include people…although I’ve done some awesome kittens.
    How does your course help someone with my issues?

    1. Hi Mardelle. Well, that’s a good question, and one I can only answer incompletely. I think there are some places that resonate with us more. But also some places that we just have a better sense of what to do with the light. Perhaps for you in Scotland it’s a question of becoming aware of different possibilities than are present in France or Arizona. I think my course will open your eyes to new compositional possibilities, to see things in new ways, and to push you to work those things through in a new context. In short, it might be just the guided challenge that you need.

  8. Okay, I just listened to the video at thecompellingframe.com and I have a question. I think the thing that is most worrying me is that you do mostly portraits (in fact, I think those are the only photos I’ve ever seen of yours) and they are truly very compelling! I don’t do portraits, I have absolutely no interest in doing portraits or landscapes. I like everyday objects or situations (without people in them) and I love to do abstract images (details of something, shadows, light splashing on a wall, etc.). In “The Compelling Frame”, will you mostly be showing portraits or landscapes as examples of compelling images? I was told for many years that to make a compelling photo it needs a human element. I therefore assumed I cannot make compelling photos because I don’t ever include people in them. For this reason, I never felt represented in the courses I’ve taken, be they online or in a classroom. What do you think?

    1. I’ve noticed, as well, that the photos that are chosen as “best” in competitions include people or animals or other living creatures. I’d be curious to know why this is. Perhaps because we can relate to other creatures easier because of expressions, etc? It would be good to hear your answer to Louise Dandenau’s questions. As far as taking the course goes, there’s always the “out” that David promises: “My promise to you: I back what I make for you and if this course isn’t what you hoped, just let me know within 30 days and I’ll happily refund your tuition.”
      Unfortunately, for us Canadians, the price is at least a third higher than listed. Bummer.

      1. Hi Wally – I think it’s an interesting observation and it comes down, probably, to connection. We just feel more empathy and connection to living things, especially people and kittens (apparently). There’s often more story there. Or it’s more easily accessible on an emotional level. But there is some wonderful photography that lies outside this scope, I’m just not sure judges know what to do with it, which is why there are specific competitions for abstracts and architectural work. And thank you for the reminder, my offer of a refund if the course isn’t for you is very sincere. I believe this course will really move the needle for a lot of people but we also all learn differently and I’d rather have your trust than your money (though both would also be OK.) You’re right about the Canadian dollar. Not that it will help but we held back any kind of price increase for sensitivity to this reality. A drop in the bucket perhaps, but heartfelt, one Canuck to another.

    2. Hi Louise! This is an excellent question and I’m going to send you an email with it just to be sure you get it. Yes, I do a lot of people photography, along with travel (usually with people) and then some wildlife and landscapes (ahem, often with people, geez, what’s wrong with me, I don’t even like people that much! 🙂 ) But I believe that composition has nothing to do with whether a person is in the frame or not. It’s all light, lines, and moment. Contrast. Balance / Tension. Story. Colour. And on and on. So yes, my example might CONTAIN people but they aren’t about people. No, you don’t need a human element for a photograph to be deeply human. You don’t need story either. They are merely one way to get there. One of the reasons I offer a sincere 30-day guarantee is to let you test it out. If you can see past the fact that my examples contain people and street scenes and sharks, and hear my lessons about the actual concepts, I think the course will serve you very well. But if it’s not for you, just let me know! I hope this helps!

  9. Yet another amazing video with fantastic tips. I love the idea of “The Compelling Frame” course, but I have to admit that I have taken several online courses in the past that made all sorts of promises about helping improve creativity, vision, etc. and they usually fell short. I love your books and I’m very curious about the course, but I’m not sure…

    Thank you for this wonderful video series. It helps a lot to think about how to see. I am a big fan of yours. 🙂

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