Making Images that Connect

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[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” bottom_padding=”20px”]If you’re in a rut or you’re worried your compositions are too safe and maybe a little boring, if you know you can do better but don’t know where to begin, give me a chance to give you some hope about making more captivating photographs: photographs that connect!

All of us want to make better photographs, and for most of us that’s not something we were born with. But the visual language that’s responsible for making stronger photographs is something you can learn.

Composition is everything. You can have all the gear – or all the vision – in the world, but it’s composition alone that gets you to the more powerful photographs, the ones that connect and stir something in people.”

Take a few minutes to watch this video; I think you’ll see the challenges we all face are pretty common – and they can be overcome!

In the next two weeks I’ve got two more videos coming about seeing better and making stronger compositions, and I’ll email you as soon as they’re up; in the meantime would you leave a comment and let me know what’s your biggest challenge with learning composition and making stronger photographs? Thanks!

For the Love of the Photograph, 
David duChemin

Chime in! What’s your biggest challenge regarding how to compose better photographs?



  1. Hello David,
    I use old gear and except for the rule of thirds, I can’t remember rules. I shoot what is either beautiful or meaningful. However, I have trouble making a crisp image at times- or catch a fast animal or flower in the breeze. I would look forward to learning how to better compose for this.

  2. Captivating, compelling, expressive, emotional, connection, etc, etc.
    Can these attributes also be applied to abstract photos?

  3. David, I love your approach and will get back into your book The Vision driven photographer and watch the new series of videos. My challenge is this: I mainly shoot wildlife and birds in our game reserves like the Kruger National Park in South Africa; from the front- or backseat of my VW ‘kombi’ – bus. Driving trough the park and spotting a leopard about to cross the road gives you NO time to think about composition. Same with a snake eagle perched on a branch. You have to stop, focus, bank a shot and wait for the eagle to take off….. the only thing you can do is to keep your finger on the shutter and shoot. Composition ??

    1. Hi Annette – I hear ya, but composition is not less important. Look at all the best wildlife photographers and you’ll see exquisite composition. It makes it harder, yes, and it requires a greater sensitivity to coming moments, and like anything it takes luck too, but don’t dismiss the need to understand this stuff. The more intuitive it becomes the faster you’ll get to those more powerful compositions, but it’s still composition and visual language decisions that make a beautiful, compelling, photograph of a beautiful lion instead of a mediocre photograph of a beautiful lion. Subject alone almost never carries a photograph.

  4. After nearly 40 years behind a camera, I feel like I am just arriving as a sports photographer, but everything else just feels like snapshots. Dry, flat, boring. I’m looking forward to your course, and to hopefully breathing some life into the rest of my pictures.

  5. Agree quite happily with what you’re saying. I just wish you would learn to use your video editing software.
    Jump cuts that are obvious are so distracting from the message if you have any visual training. A .5 or .25 second mix rather than a cut would be smoother. This should then make your delivery smoothe and therefore more accessible.
    No real criticism intended – just a little request from someone who is struggling to cope with the tecnics. Probably just what you’re on about BUT…..

    1. Thanks Paul. We all learn in stages. I’m miles from where I once was and I’ll learn this too. I’m sure you’d agree it doesn’t happen overnight. I appreciate the encouragement to keep striving – I will!

  6. Dear David, great that you are so enthusiastic about composition. I love it and it speaks so much out of my heart.
    I’m on my way to enjoy day by day the beauty to come intentially closer to strong images.
    So far, I have so much to digest and to practice making daily photographs. Thinking about them intensely why the work or more often why the do not work, and work out how to improve them and make again a new photograph series.
    So, sorry, so far no question from my side, I’m just very thankful that you opened my eyes to look differently at thinks.
    Cheers and have a great trip to bear country

  7. I have always liked this saying — “Do what you like, and like what you do.” If you like an image and are really excited about it, chances are someone else will like it, too. But do not count on that. In this day and age it’s all about likes or dislikes. If you count on thumbs up or thumbs down, you are doomed. Get excited about your photography, feel the energy course through you when press that button. Someone told me a long time ago that I was a good photographer but I needed to slow down,, be intentional and above all, consider quality over quantity. This is hard to do but every time I think of his advice and heed it, I see better results.

  8. Thanks for this. I am reading your visual toolbox book at the moment and loving it. Like most people, I want to take photos that capture everyday life and make you feel-capture the stories of life. I find I can fluke it and get photos I love but more often than not they get lost in translation between what I see and feel to what I capture. I am very much a learning perfectly imperfect work in progress! Looking forward to following this. Thanks ?

  9. I feel like i know exactly what to do but when im on a location I forget everything I read. In short I am having trouble applying things I learn. I am glad im out of gear obsession thanks to you

  10. I feel like i know exactly what to do but when im on a location I forget everything I read. In short I am having trouble applying things I learn. I am glad im out of gear obsession thanks to you.

  11. Thank you for being so interested in helping us the photographer.
    Not following the rules makes a great piece of art.
    If your happy with what you do print & Hang it on your wall.

  12. The big challenge for me: knowing how to scan a scene for “snapshot moments.” So many opportunities to capture strong lines, gestures and facial expressions, wide shots and closeups, different compositions, unique angles… and that’s all BEFORE putting the camera up to my eye to see how the lens distorts everything. How do I develop the awareness to work a scene to its maximum potential, switching gears intuitively to get meaningful shots?

  13. David, I follow a great deal of what you say and write because after years of working on the technical – I’m ready to throw it all away because I can’t get the connection – the story the humanity whatever you want to call it. I do work for a charity, the images I take are generally used for soliciting sponsorship for young girls to get and education (something I’m passionate about) but there is only the occasional one where I connect and get a good image… so I’ll watch your videos and absorb everything I can that will teach me how to create a compelling image

    1. Don’t throw it all away, Linda! What you want to learn is the hardest part and most of us spend a lifetime learning what it means to make these kinds of images. Unlike so much of the craft, there’s no way to learn this specific thing but by doing it. Even the best sense of composition in the world still needs to be accompanied by a sense of moment and connection. Perhaps it’s time to put away the technical and study more photographs – specifically the kinds of images that have the connection, emotion, humanity, in them. And as you study them ask yourself what it is that gives that particular image the feeling you want to recreate. Is it choice of moment? an emotional gesture? Use of colour? Figure out what really connects for you, and you’ll be much closer to the kinds of images you want.

  14. I suffer from analysis/paralysis. My inbox is bombarded with “how not to” “7 tips” “mistakes you are making” “how not to take a cliché”. It is exhausting me. I just want my photographs to matter. The hearts and likes on social media have become boring because quite frankly I am not sure any one really knows why they are hearting or liking. I want photographs that matter to me. Damn it! I want emotion. So I can’t wait on what you have in store. Cheers!

  15. I’ve been calling myself a documentary photographer, but love your term ‘humanitarian photographer.’ That’s my goal. The biggest challenge – learning to see. Really learning to see what is right in front of you. I’ve followed some of your work re: the ethics of taking photos of people, and it’s changed the whole way I approach. Looking forward to more.

  16. my favorite photos show the emotions of people. I enjoy photographing my young daughter as she faces challenges in her life, especially candid moments. My problem is that I need to become more familiar with my camera and settings so that i can react better to changing light to catch the moments. I imagine that comes with intentional practice shooting in different light and learning the settings to become instinctual.

    I really want to learn to make the subject pop.

  17. Photography is a hobby for me – happily – and I prefer landscapes. After many years of taking photos, beginning in the film era, it was only fairly recently that a professional photographer looked at several of my images and, for each, asked the simple question, “What is the subject?” I’d never been asked that before and it was only then that I realized and accepted that this is a question I need to answer when preparing to take the shot – in retrospect a “no-brainer” but an “aha” moment for me at the time. Through your upcoming course, I look forward to other “aha” moments like this.

  18. It seems to me the most compelling photos have people in them, but I can’t afford to hire models(besides, that can come across as inauthentic) and I don’t feel comfortable asking strangers if I can photo them. How can I make my photos compelling without people in them?

  19. It seems to me, I need to learn the difference of light & how it works. I think about scenes ahead, however, I really struggle when the actual moment comes to get it all right in camera.

  20. Brilliant. I can’t help but flash back to sitting on the deck together in Rome as the sun set over proseccio, cigars and me choking to death on said cigar. 😉

    This is so needed. And you have indeed done it, my friend. You have taken the ultimate challenge and then surpassed it – to bring mentorship to a wider audience – to feed the deep hunger of the world.

    Very excited to see this roll out! To see you take your calling to an even deeper (higher?) level.

    You rock.

  21. I’m looking forward to see how to properly evaluate the scene and capture the moment.

    1. Paul – I won’t be talking about how to do anything “properly.” I’m just not that kind of guy. But I know what you mean. I talk more about being able to see the possibilities – to see a scene for what’s there, in terms of visual elements. I hope it’ll help!

  22. Right now I’m trying to learn how to work a scene / subject. I think I’ve read just about every book and video where you mention taking sketch photos. The one thing I find missing is what am I looking for in them on the back of my tiny LCD screen? There seems to be so much more I need to know or ask when working a scene. My biggest problem is I get overwhelmed in the moment because want to know what that is like yesterday!

    1. I feel you, Matthew! There’s a lot to this – and much of it has to do with just being patient – but I think the third video is going to help you! That and just being really present and mindful and maybe spending more time and asking the right questions. You’ll get there!

  23. Having read most of your writings and still struggling I am looking forward to untying myself from formal rules and learning to evaluate the scene and then the image in the viewfinder to capture what it was that attracted me to want to capture the image in the first place.

  24. I am a wedding photographer who witness events and moments quickly happening in front of me. Sometimes in the rush to capture the moment, the composition is sacrificed. I know there is nothing like capturing a moment inside a nicely framed composition. Any take on composition for shooting weddings?

    1. I think composition for every subject is the same. Some will disagree. But all photographs are line and light and moment, so it’s not really the subject that matters. But in your case it seems there is a need for speed and that comes to those who achieve it by being really intentional and getting to the point where you’re practiced enough that you’re not thinking about specifics – for you it’ll be a mix of being so familiar with the elements of weddings that you recognize them faster and can anticipate them sooner. But again, the compositional elements that make great photographs are the same no matter what you shoot – they just look different.

  25. I’m intrigued! My biggest challenge is not judging the subject available. If I go to Cape Cod or Cape May, I find all sorts of new and exciting colors, shapes, windows, doors, doorways, Victorian, old, worn, boats, reflections, shops, people, vehicles, and on and on. There is not enough time to play with it all. Then I return to the place I have seen for 62 years. Blah! Drab. Lifeless. Boring. I was once told boring is good and I once agreed. I seem to have lost that. I find it really difficult to find something to shoot. I may be the only photography enthusiast struggling with this. David, I love the way you think and express yourself. I envy you.

    1. I appreciate your candor so much, Greg. But no, you’re not the only photographer struggling with this. In fact, I don’t go out with my camera at all where I live. It doesn’t interest me in the way that makes me want to photograph. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Unless it was all I could photograph and then I’d probably focus on the things that do move me and I’d be bent over a tripod photographing flowers or doing portraits with subjects that interest me. However, as simplistic as it sounds, I think once you learn the elements of composition you start seeing them everywhere and the possibilities open up in a way they didn’t before. I look forward to hearing what you think of the second and third videos.

  26. Hi David, i have two of your books and am constantly re-reading them. i have many challenges …. my biggest one is my own impatience. Maybe its ADD or maybe its lack of confidence. I don’t know. But I tend to hurry my shots and not take the time to think them through or let the moment happen. … Btw, I’ve registered for Coastal Vision II in PEI next July. I’m looking mighty forward to it 🙂

    1. Wow, that’s great -see you in PEI! Until then, slow down. ADD (in the non-clinical kind of way) is just hyped-up curiosity. Use it! But sue it mindfully. Slow down. Slow…down…. I promise, it’ll help. If you blaze through a scene in 30 seconds, force yourself to stay for 3 minutes. If you only shoot 3 frames, force yourself to make 30. But make them 3 mindful minutes and 30 intentional frames.

  27. I find difficulty in recognising “the” moment and I miss the shot. Part of the problem is taking photographs of people in crowd scenes, part of it is a natural shyness. I don’t want to be an”in your face” photographer. I tend to go out to shoot spontaneously, but I do have an idea of what I want to capture.
    I agree that the more you capture in the shot, the less post production you have to do.
    Thank you for sharing these videos.

  28. I prefer rendering black & white landscapes to most other subjects. With such subject matter l find texture and lighting to be the elements I can best control, or at least bear in mind. After all, it is hard to move a tree or a mountain, so you must move the camera rather than the subject. Sometimes the best POV is unattainable. (I think this is why drone-assisted imagery is trendy. ) Other than lighting, texture, and POV, what else can the camera operator do to achieve that compelling image, especially with a static subject? (I can and will drag the shutter from 30 seconds to 16 minutes, but this affects primarily texture.)

  29. I’m looking forward to this series, your books and previous podcasts have already helped me enormously. I still struggle at time with gap between what I see / feel / would like to express and what I end up capturing in an image. I suspect I need to get up earlier, stay out later and push other boundaries – not so easy post-60 🙂

  30. Hi David,
    Great video. I’m looking forward to the next one. I’ve been a photographer for several years now and I think I’m okay. I spend a lot of time studying the work that others have done, reading blogs, watching video tutorials and generally honing my craft. But apart from obviously beautiful landscapes and well constructed food photos, I find it very hard to judge what makes a great photo. Especially when it comes to street photography. Helen Levitt’s famous photograph of the girl crouching on the street next to the green car, for instance. I don’t get it. I know it’s a photographic icon but I don’t understand what makes it so great. I’ve taken pictures that I thought were good but they didn’t really speak to a wider audience. And pictures that have spoken to a wider audience haven’t always spoken to me. I guess I’m finding it difficult to frame an articulate question here, but why is one photograph better than another? And how do I make compelling pictures if the scene I’m looking at doesn’t speak to me while I’m looking at it. If I was standing on that sidewalk observing that girl, and the scene froze for all the time that I needed to compose and take the same shot Helen Levitt did, I wouldn’t have taken THAT picture. So why did Helen Levitt take it, and what makes it so great? How do I learn to speak the visual language?

    1. Hi Siddhartha – Well much of this is exactly what I want to teach, but the first question you asked is one I think you should try to answer yourself. Take ten of the photographs that you love – preferably made by others, like Helen Levitt, and ask yourself: why do I love this? What makes it so strong? What makes me react to it the way I do? What choices did Helen make to make this image so powerful? Do that 10 times and then ask yourself – what are the commonalities? It’s all there! It’s visual. Starting with an understanding of what makes a more powerful photograph – for you – is a great first step and one most photographers will never take.

  31. Hey David!
    I always appreciate your clear and thoughtful outlook on creating. As always, so inspiring and instructive. I look forward to the rest of this series.
    I’m with you, as I feel that composition is key to creating impactful images. I find it a constant struggle and challenge to “see” and capture the things that interest me in a way that hasn’t been done a zillion times before – seeing the world in a fresh manner. I’ll be focusing in on your suggestions and knowledge in that regard. Thanks for all you share!
    P.S. place a crappy camera on top of your foreground books 🙂

    1. Anna – I looked for a crappy camera but all I could find were cameras that churned out crappy or amazing photographs depending on the choices of the person holding them. I assure you that Hassie has made more than its fair share of crappy images in my hands over the years. 🙂

  32. WOW David! I am really pumped up for your course. Your passion and enthusiasm is very contagious. You’ve inspired me to ignite a passion inside me to take more compelling images. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Ron! I do hope you’ll decide to join me for the course. I’m really excited about it!

  33. What is a pleasing image? What makes us respond in certain ways to photographs? Is there something more compelling about a painting of the same subject? Does bigger make it better (Peter Lik)? How do we make things that we see every day, stand out?

  34. My photograph start improving when I stopped searching the image and let it come to me like a kind of perception flash. I have to learn now how to work with these flashes.

  35. Just what I need. Lately I feel in a creative vacuum. It is very difficult for me to compose an image by observing the great landscape before my eyes, simplify the chaos I have before me.

  36. First off you rock! Still one of my most favourite photographers ever!
    I resonate with all that you said…….I have lots of what I think are crappy shots and then voila one that is amazing!

  37. I wish you started this three weeks ago. We’re leaving today for Switzerland and staying at a hotel with majestic views. I expect jaw dropping vistas from the hotel terraces, and would love to come home with jaw dropping photos rather than a collection of distant mountain peaks.

    Perhaps the solution would be to take the course and then go back.

    I’m an avid reader (and re-reader) of your books. I’m looking forward to this series.

  38. I took your advice from a podcast and looked thru my photographs. Getting a sense of my style, usual lens range, noticing my reaction of to the photos that spark life in me. I noticed all the images that I am pleased with were photographs from two years or more ago. Nothing I’ve photographed recently sparks any joy. Then I realized I’ve spent past two years chasing “the right camera”. The previous decade I had one camera and two lenses and was content. Then I started with forums, reviews and asking – ” what camera is BEST for me?” The result? Bought and sold excellent cameras, never content and lost the spark for photography. I’ve been infected with the commercialism of cameras and let go of the magic of the moment.

    1. HI Kathy – Sounds like it’s time to fall in love with lines, light, and moments, again, with the photographs themselves. Whatever camera you have right now is probably just fine. 🙂 Stop the squirrel chase and go make something you love! 🙂

  39. Hello from Uruguay, I wonder as I still go on growing with Photography, when taking photographs, and as I love nature, I always feel that the things we may see in landscapes are in the end very similar to a lot of other photos that are around in all the different net media… How to make a different photo from an ordinary place… ( I don’t mean going up to the Himalaya’s… ) and I don’t mean the use of filters to make soft waters which I am sick of watching around… Thank you so much, you are one of the best teacher I have listened!

    1. HI Daniela – Well, this is one of the struggles of any creative person – and it always will be – but it begins with knowing what the elements of design are so you can begin to play with them in creative ways. But it also requires the courage to make decisions, to play, to risk failure. And yes, the soft water is getting a bit much for me too. 🙂

  40. I look forward to this series of tutorials. Q. How do I capture what moves me in the first place. Something catches my attention, how do I best explore this given time constraints, looking for something better etc…Thanks

  41. Good on you, David, for trying to help photographers get out of the rut of contributing to the mountains of photographic dross that are created daily: safe; formulaic; mediocre; predictable; yawn-worthy images.

    “Composition is the strongest form of seeing.” Edward Weston.

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo Da Vinci.

    I believe that our ability to compose stronger images comes from looking at lots of photographs (literally many years worth) and dwelling on (contemplating and analysing) those that really speak to us…whether they be the photographs of famous masters, our peers, or ours.

    Keep the faith! I look forward to what comes next. ®

    1. Thanks for those quotes, Rob! If more people simply studied photographs they’d be miles ahead, wouldn’t they?

  42. I feel that most clips on YouTube or whatever are designed for making a poor or OK photo look better. It rarely you get something that tells you how to take a better photograph so that you don’t need all the tricks used in post editing!!

    1. I agree. Probably because it’s just way easier to polish our turds in Photoshop and feel good about them than to do the hard work. 🙂

  43. Love the videos.

    After some thought, I think for me, it is recognizing the story that is unfolding not quickly enough. Far too often I end up either reading the situation wrong or try to tell the wrong story. Sure, I understand that there is no real right or wrong, and that I’m photographing the scene or situation as I see it through my mind, heart, and eyes, but to be able to read and react quickly is a big issue I have.

    I had the biggest honour of being able to walk around and photograph with David Guttenfelder a couple of weeks ago, there was one situation where we were not 1 metre away from each other, photographing the same thing, and after comparing the two different views, it amazed me how differently and compelling his frame was compared to mine. Obviously there’s a reason he’s with NatGeo and I’m not. (No disillusion that I should be either, 😉 ) But for me it was the awe that he was able to pick up on all the aspects of his frame so quickly and that despite almost being at the same spot I managed to miss it. With that being said, I’m quite happy with the frame I have, I just felt more drawn to his.

    To read and react and adjust the composition is something that I know I need to work on, and angles… my angles need a lot of work. But I think the angles depend on the story that is unfolding, too.

    Thanks for these and all your other videos. Look forward to seeing the future ones.

    1. Thanks Leigh – I’d be interested to know what the one take away was for you – what accounts for his ability to do what you can’t? I’m guessing it’s primarily time. He’s done it so much, with such intention, that he can anticipate and compose with such familiarity. You can do that too – but you’ll need to double down on the intention and the time 🙂

      1. Thank you, David. Yes, you’re absolutely right, I do need to double down on intention and time.

        His 15 year head start and experiences definitely is the major factor here. He shared his photos from when he was starting out as a newspaper photographer, and even chuckled on how juvenile they were (I’m not going to use the word bad. 😉 )

        One of the most encouraging things that I was able to take away from the day was when he was giving pointers and his insight, more often than naught, we had a similar or even identical mindset about the scene and how to photograph it.

        I think another factor is, and I guess you can bundle this in with intention, is that when he photographs, he knows already who his audience will be, and I suppose the fight I have in my head, is (and this goes back to Episode 68 of Vision is Better) being to better balance, if there is a balance, of knowing what my story is and finding that audience and photographing for myself.

        Even as I’m typing this, I’m struggling to string these thoughts together in a cohesive and understandable way. My wife has said a number of times that my head is too busy, but it seems that if my head isn’t busy, I’d get bored easily and quickly. Maybe I’m over-thinking a scene?

        So many thoughts, so little time. I’ll probably come back to this to read the whole version a little later, so I can digest it.

        I did start a whole new Instagram account just for sketches, as you recommended in Episode 69, and I think this will make a difference in how I see and edit in the future. I’m hoping it will help with the story telling as well.

        Thanks again.

  44. This sounds like something I need to get me out of the rut! My passion is sports photography but I want to make images that just stick with you. I know it’s about timing so training myself to capture more emotion than just “action” is what I really want. Tack sharp images of action are great but sometimes leave me feeling underwhelmed. And with sports I have a lot of images to cull through – I’ve become quite harsh on my images, even if they capture the height of action …if they don’t move me. So combining premeditated composition with action and emotion is my goal but I feel I fall short. Looking forward to your next video and the course offering.

  45. Hey David,
    Just wanted to thank you for the insights, inspiration and motivation. It’s been quite a while since I made anything meaningful happen with my images, but thanks to you, Iv’e now embarked on a new journey of self-discovery and starting anew. I’ve learned quite a bit from you, lessons I’m sure will serve me well in the months to come, as I take a shot at reinventing myself and apply what I’ve learned to the process. I know you’re busy, but should you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, I’d really appreciate any insights you could share about my work.

    Thanks again,

  46. Appreciate your approach with these videos – as i do with your books. I shoot both b&w film and digital. My instinct and experience is that composition issues can differ between b&w and color. Would appreciate some comments with respect to b&w composition, in particular. Like the mala.

  47. Composition is a great topic David. I often thought that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” . So I challenge myself to capture images that appeal to me. Too often though when I show my photos to others the reaction is well…disappointing. Something is missing. And then a strange thing happens….I try to look deeper into what appealed to me in the first place and I try harder to express that attribute in the next image I take. While the grand and pristine landscape makes me feel good I think my images need more to tell a story. A story that others can relate to and feel. Increasingly of late I have been adding people to my images. This seems to add broader appeal. But adding people is scary. I need to overcome my fear.

    PS I took part in the Latow workshop which you presented and found your insights and overall approach to photography to be refreshing and inspiring. Thank you.

  48. Hi David and thank you very much, because since long ago my doubt was … Spontaneous or planned photos to achieve better results? With you explanation I understood that spontaneous means talent and planned means I have to learn. Therefore now I am more motivated to learn.

    1. Hi Enrique – I think the lines between spontaneous and planned can be blurred a lot. I thing we can plan to be spontaneous! The more we learn, the more ready we are to be spontaneous! 🙂

  49. Thank you, David. As always, you’re both inspirational and educational.

    My biggest challenge is to slow down! My compositions are accidental, but I click the shutter as if the scene will disappear if I don’t move fast enough. That throws mindfulness out the window.

  50. I am just finishing up a 30 day Composition challenge. While the images are technically correct, they are leaving me emotionally flat. While watching your video – aha moment. I am a place photographer, I return often to places that I love, but how to capture my feeling for that place in the photograph? What’s missing in the frame? Me! The photographs, the stories are about my connection to the place, yet there is no evidence of me. I have worked on self-portrait projects over the years, I think it is time to return to that work with new intention. Looking forward to the next two videos and the BIG announcement.

    1. I love it, Sarah! That sounds like a really great realization. Sounds like you’ve got a perfect new project!

  51. Hi David. Great stuff that reminds me what you spoke about in the Course with Laurent Breillat : Révélez-votre-âme-de-photographe. I want my photographs to connect with people.
    I have 2 difficulties: 1) to get out of the rules (or my usual decisions) about composition and/or post-processing (ex. putting always the same amount of vibrance when I would hope to keep a rainy atmosphere in Fall…)
    2) using the Light appropriately to serve my intention : I have difficulty to perceive the different kinds of Light and their nuances… we rarely speak about Light in composition …

  52. Looking forward to your videos! I’ve seen great pictures you took of landscapes and such, but please also give some attention to “people photography” (portrait, half- and whole body, both in the studio and outside) that I am mostly involved in.

    1. Fokke – The good news is what I teach isn’t really about WHAT is in the photograph, it’s how it’s represented – lines, shapes, light, etc. But yes, most of what I do is about people and places and in my teaching I give a lot of weight to the kind of work I do, and that’s people. And the occasional shark. 🙂 But remember, no matter what the subject, it all comes down to line and shape and light and emotion and these can be found everywhere!

  53. About three years ago I joined ‘Blipfoto’ which is where you take an image every day and post it. I then started looking for images whatever I was doing. After a time I found I was seeing things I would never have seen before. I stopped thinking about thirds and leading lines etc. and just looked for an image. I found my photography was improving. I also found that the more I knew, more I didn’t know and the more I wanted to know. I still have a long way to go. I think composition is something you never stop learning about and is one of the reasons I love photography.

  54. I echo comments and questions posed by Erik, Cathy, and Rob.

    I photograph botanical subjects, usually in the garden, and sometimes as “still life” using natural lighting on my balcony.

    I struggle with keeping my compositions as simple as possible, yet still tell a story, and remaining truthful about the moment.

    I struggle with perfectionism.

    I also experience doubts and anxiety about trying to be an artist with my photography. But I’m going to trust you 🙂 …the knowledge and skills can be learned and become intuitive.

    Thank you for generously sharing your passion, wisdom, and talent.

    I look forward to this series and the course.

  55. One thing I really struggle with in terms of composition is seeing the 3D scene in front of me in 2D. My brain has trouble flattening 3 dimensions into 2. I can see composition on a screen, but it is so much harder to do it when I’m looking at a scene directly, or through the viewfinder. When I’m photographing at home, I download the photos from my camera to my computer to really see the scene. Out and about, I find myself choosing my compact camera ahead of my DSLR because I can see the scene immediately on the LCD.

    1. That’s one of the things I love about my Fuji mirrorless cameras, Helen – in fact shooting with a DSLR seems rather archaic and awkward to me – seeing on the LCD has helped me tremendously with this issue.

  56. My biggest challenge is keeping my images simple – that is to say, fewer elements/components, not more. I work on taking away “clutter” until there is nothing left to remove…and that’s when I get my best images. I’ve already learned a lot from you, David – I’ve bought and read several of your books, and study your photographs over and over. Most often, an emotional photo = simple, few elements, the “right” light…and great composition. This morning we were out at a nearby lake outside of Yellowstone. We went moose “hunting” and struck out. So we went to the lake instead. It was around 8:30 am and the light to the right was already no longer worthy of a photograph. The sun was too high. Yet to my left, the most marvelous light was hitting the mountains, the huge firs with the aspens in front, and a large grouping of pronghorn settled down in the tall grasses. I used that opportunity to point out to our traveling companion the drastic difference in lighting and colors, as she seems to struggle with understanding what is good light – light that makes for compelling images. It was a good morning, and I am hoping a simple dramatic shot of those pronghorn will come out of my camera later today. Looking forward to the rest of your video series and to your newest teaching program. Thanks for making me a better photographer.

    1. Thanks, Rob. Simplification is a long road, I think. The effort is worth it, though. I’m always asking, and encouraging my students to ask, “what’s the emotional or graphic core of this image and how much can you take away in order to make that core as powerful as possible?”

  57. Hi David, you know how to get my attention every time , there is a lot of noise out there (I think u have mentioned this before).
    So I have a lot of questions but for now I think the big issue for me is knowing when to include or leave out an item/subject of the frame especially when there is more than one of them – the difference between tension and distraction I mean. I can’t tell between the two to be honest, so if I could get on top of that it would be really gr8……looking forward to your future videos!!!!

  58. Thanks so much for this David! First I photograph for myself, not professionally. My question? I’d like to have questions to guide my thinking and inspire my discipline and discovery process. Yet as soon as I tell you I need questions I also realize I often don’t really know exactly what it is I’m trying to capture, so how can I possibly answer the questions?! May that not sound hopeless. Looking forward to next week’s video! All the best, Cindy

    1. Ha! Not hopeless at all, Cindy. I use questions a lot to guide my process and often I don’t know where I’m going. The camera is as much a tool of exploration as it is expression – often I just need to put the thing to my face and see what happens as I ask questions (what’s the light giving me? What’s the relationship between the elements in my frame? etc). I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself because I’ll be including this eBook in the course I’m starting in a few weeks, but my eBook Making The Image is all about this very thing – in fact it’s all about those questions and might be really helpful to you. But if you can wait, and think a course on composition might help you, then hang tight for a bit because I’d hate for you to buy something you’d be getting as part of that course, The Compelling Frame.

  59. Of course, composition is important….very important….but your statement about composition being everything made me think: can an image with a “good composition” fail to evoke emotion? Also, can an image with a “bad composition” evoke emotion (because of colour, texture, whatever)?
    If you define all images that evoke emotion as having a “good composition” then you automatically make composition all important to evoking emotion. Of course, we know of other reasons, besides composition, that an image can fail to evoke emotion. For example: there may be technical problems that distract the viewer; the image may appear to be of low technical quality by today’s standards (poor resolution, etc.). These are dependent on technology…and gear. A more fundamental reason is that evoking emotion depends on the viewer too: emotion depends on the viewer’s background and personality. To me, photography means freedom of expression and a viewpoint that encompasses all of the variables that contribute to the power of an image: composition, gear, post processing, etc. All that said, I certainly do look forward to learning more about composition from you; I thoroughly enjoy all of your communications.

    1. Well, Stephen, as with any communitcation we get in trouble when we over-simplify. So, yes, absolutely – there are times (rare, I think) when a moment is so good that there’s emotional value separate from the composition. But I also think that photograph would probably have been even better – would have given that amazing moment a much stronger expression – had the composition been stronger. There’s a lot that causes us to respond to a photograph and no, composition isn’t “everything” but it’s close. It’s the language with which we speak, and within that there are a million stories and poems with all their imperfections. But any photographer that studies visual design and composition will have the tools to make those choices much better than the person who’s just really good at making sharp photographs. Thanks for the push-back!

  60. I have been working on light in my travel photography. But you know one is not always in the ideal spot for the shot at Golden hour! So how do i make do with the light I have to capture a compelling view of what I see?

    1. Light is important. But I really believe there’s no bad light. There’s light that’s better at some things than others, but I’ve made plenty of great photographs not during so-called Golden Hour. In fact more and more I am prefering the contrast and shadows of mid-day with the light I used to think was too harsh to even use. So if the light’s not giving you what you want, you need to find something else to carry the image, like the strength of a great moment well composed 🙂

  61. I don’t have a “style” – I shoot what catches my eye. How do I refine that?

    1. Ignore it. Forget it. Focus instead on creating work that is consistent and perhaps just a little more cohesive. Start with great creative exercises and well-constrained personal work – so you can get used to creating images that work together and look like they came from the same photographer. Make sure they feel right to you, that they reflect who you are and what you want to be making. Keep doing that. And making choices. At some point you’ll want to focus a little more and not be all over the map. And one day you’ll look back and see that a “style” has emerged. But it’s a by-product not a thing we chase. Hope that helps, Patty.

  62. Thank you so much, David, for sharing these insightful advises on composition! It is a wonderful learning “trip” every time I listen to you sharing your experience as a photographer!

  63. I have found your blog and comments inspiring. I’m just getting started in photography, and it struck me that the Visual Language you describe is–or could be–another set of rules, like thirds, golden spiral. I would appreciate your perspective on whether that is a correct impression.

    1. I think there’s a real difference between rules and principles. Rules say “do this” or “don’t do that”. Principles say, “understand that when you do this, this particular thing happens, and when you do that, that particular thing happens.” Then from that understanding you can make choices – creative choices that take you in the direction you want to go. The visual language is a metaphor for a series of principles with unending possibilities and creativity, not a set of rules. Rules oversimplify and they discourage free-thinking and experimentation and they set us up for failure. At least that’s how I see it. Thanks for chiming in, Nancy!

      1. Ah ha! Thank you…the distinction between rules and principles clarifies a lot….and it helps.

  64. David, I’m intrigued by what you’re talking about. I’ve lately been motivated to use the camera to capture what I see and not depend upon post processing. The difference between what the eye sees and the camera “sees” is an issue. The larger issue to me is how to capture the emotion that I think is the difference between a good photo and a great one. When I take a photo I think comes close I’m disappointed in what I see when I get back and view the results. Part of that is because I’m not sure how to do that. I’m interested in learning. I want to depend less on the rule of thirds or Fibonacci and depend more on communicating what I see and what that says. Convoluted enough?

    1. I’ve made it 30 years without remotely understanding how to use the Fibonacci ratio, Steve. I think when photographers can instead think about issues like – in this case – balance and tension, and how elements relate to each other and the frame, then they can start getting more creative. I’d be super interested to see what you think of the course I’ll be offering.

  65. As Linda above, I too am a visual learner but It helps to ‘see’ what is right about a wow photo that helps. I find myself experimenting with different takes/angles/views and occasionally, after, I find one that starts to express what I want people to see. Want to understand how to achieve that more.

  66. Looking forward to this, David!!! I have almost every issue you and others have mentioned. My compositions are gradually improving, which is a rewarding and a relief 🙂 , but I still have a long way to go and get confused about various choices.

    1. Joolz – Don’t despair – you can learn this stuff! I really believe that if you understand the elements and decisions (the possibilities!) of visual design the way I’m going to be teaching them, then you’ll see the choices as possibilities to play with and find your own way, rather than choices that are either right or wrong.

  67. Hi, David, I spent the last two weeks reading your book about the visual toolbox, and I enjoyed it so much :).
    These video series seems to be the continuation of this topic.
    Awesome !!!


  68. David, I am a visual learner so for me I have to be shown what is wrong with a particular photo…so being able to critique a photo would be very helpful to me. Looking forward to your next videos,

  69. Hi, David I often in fact most of the time I take pictures of animals and when you just have a couple of seconds to get the right moment with the good camera settings, I don’t see how I can take in account framing, lightning, composition on a moving subject. I am felling when I get a good shot that there is a part of luck. I would like to change my point of view as you recommand but what about my subject when they don’t want to cooperate, drop the shot waitting for another possibility?

  70. Communicating what I see and feel in photos so that others see and feel something the same. I think I have a good handle on the visual design elements which I try to incorporate into my compositions. Attaching an adjective or emotion to the photo is my biggest project. Maybe when I come up with better compositions this will show up better. Looking forward to the next videos.

  71. Many weekends I walk to town, about 2.5 miles, and carry my camera, just in case I see something to make a photograph. That worked for awhile but lately I’ve just carried the camera never taking it out of the bag. Problem? Vision! I have trouble seeing light and composition. Also have trouble “working the scene.” Looking forward to the next two tutorials.

  72. Very interesting. David.
    You are definitely on the right track; the holy grail is to take the image that speaks the thousand words.

    I am hooked on your every word!

  73. Seeing the whole photograph. In paying attention to the object of interest, I neglect to pay attention to all the other elements which will appear.

  74. David

    You have been on track with composition for a long time and I listened! But the purely philosophical language, while worthwhile, was not really moving me along enough. With your first video all that changed. I love your new approach.

    Mark me anxiously awaiting video 2&3 and waiting to register for your class.

    I have a number of your books and hope you can find a way to document your training in writing.

    Thanks for all of us for your contributions to our photographic journey.

  75. I enjoy your blog and your books! I have been shooting off and on for over 40 years (just hobby). I find that my shooting is almost all emotion based. But if I ask myself what draws me to an image, I find it hard to articulate. So when we ask “what is it you are trying to say?” I have a tough time putting it into words. Often it is simply color or pattern. Sometimes its the lines and juxtaposition of opposite subjects or ideas.

    How important is it to articulate into words what drew you to take the image? I tend to do more reacting to scene than thinking it through before pressing the shutter. To grow and make better images, how can I best get into a mental state that allows me to communicate better?

    Thanks David!

  76. I have been shooting too much for work and not enough for pleasure/creatively. I guess it is the rut thing again. I will just force myself in that direction. Great advice in the video and reading the comments.

  77. Some weeks ago a friend came to search for a photo of mine to hang on his wall. I discoverd that most of my photos are too particular to be watched for longer time. How can I make photos that are soo universal that you like to hang them on your wall

    1. That’s a great question, Hans. I think a bigger question – one without an easy answer – is “are we tapping into more universal emotions with our photographs, or do our photographs rely on knowing the place, knowing the person, that is in the image?” I often talk about the difference between making a photograph of something vs about something. I think images can be OF almost anything and still be ABOUT something more universal. How we do that is the big -and exciting – challenge of the artist.

      1. This is a a great point David- better get it tattooed on to my forearm! I’m getting so much from this whole conversation!

  78. Hi David,
    Safe, static, boring – your vocabulary captures how I often feel about my images. Your previous response to a comment about practice and changing my point of view is making me think. Looking forward to the next video.

  79. Looking forward to more. Often, I find that I have too many preconceptions about what I should do. I work hard at trying to see past these…. How do you stay open to what there is and make something when what you had in your mind just isn’t there?

    1. That’s a huge part of this, isn’t it Norm? Expectations can be so blinding. I think the best thing to do is be aware of them and to then be aware of possibilities beyond them. The more you think about composition and visual design the more familiar you become with the possibilities!

  80. I’ve started going thru my photos to pick out ones for a portfolio website. I often go out and shoot and get back and don’t like anything I shot. Seeing something interesting and capturing the essence is quite hard for me.

    When I reviewed one picture last night that I took back in January, I finally saw what I had wanted to originally capture. I ended up cropping 2/3’s of the photo away to get to what had really inspired me to take the photo. Because I hadn’t fully understood what caught my eye, I couldn’t capture the very best image. The crop doesn’t make the best photo, but hopefully it will help me recognize the essence I want to capture in future photos.

    Thanks, for you encouragement, David.

  81. How to create compelling images that stand apart from the FB/Instagram crowd that you mention without relying on post processing to get it done. I understand the need for post processing and that there’s a place for creative processing but I’m missing the creativity in the initial capture. Also with the great influx of images on the web these days I’ve lost my desire and drive to even try anymore. I sincerely want to get it back but am at a loss as how to do it.

    1. Funny, I was listening to Brooks Jensen talking this morning about artist statements and it got me thinking about why I shoot. For me it comes down to sharing emotions via photographs to connect to people. I think that this is why large numbers of people are sharing so much photography these days. For me it is an internal drive, clicks are nice, but knowing that I’ve made a real emotional connection with someone is why I keep doing this.

      I hope that you rediscover your passion.

    2. Stephanie. I think I understand exactly what you’re saying, but I’d like to suggest a shift in your perspective. Forget being different. Forget standing out from the crowd. Be willing to, yes. But as a pursuit, just focus on your own vision and desires. The things you want to explore, and say, and the way in which you want to do it. It might be time to turn off some of the social and just create. When I do workshops I forbid my students to (a) share their work with each other and (b) share or consume on social. It’s amazing what a little focus on creating and not consuming can do. I hope the rest of this series can encourage that for you!

  82. Not so much a question, as an observation. For me, it’s the challenge of having a better filter on my visual skills when being surrounded by a world full of stimuli that is constantly seeking to draw my attention. Some might say, “Dude, you suffer from ADD”. And I may very well, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who fancies himself as an artist/photographer who deals with this same battle.

    Oh well, that’s my deep thought from my shallow mind.

    1. Harness that ADD, Steve! Let it run wild but use it. Make sketch images as you follow that. I think ADD is just a lame way of labelling curiousity 🙂

  83. Thank you David! Finding simplicity without being simplistic is a challenge. And of course understanding what I feel and want to convey. Keep it up sir, you’re helping probably more than you realize.

    1. I’m so pleased to hear this, thank you, Richard. I hope the next couple videos help!

  84. Currently I seem to be attracted to improving the aspect of composition that might be called ‘readability’. How can I make my images ‘read’ better, more easily?

    1. Right on, Karsten! That you are even thinking about this puts you miles ahead of others and that question will help push you to far stronger images.

  85. Thank goodness you are around! Yes, you are correct. The preponderance of editing programs, tricks , shortcuts, etc. has taken over the creation of the image hoping that it can be corrected, fixed, and manipulated after the fact with the false hope that what you saw can be altered for the better. You know what I mean: Change or add the sky that was not there in the beginning !! So sad sometimes.

    1. I guess it’s all about what you want, right? For me the addition of sky, etc, and the over-processing loses the authenticity of what I’m trying to do. For others it’s a vital part of it and I’m OK with that. But I think any photographer who doesn’t FIRST understand visual design and moment and storytelling is going to have a tough time making even the most beautiful sky work in their images. I prefer to get it right in camera, but I also prefer not to be prescriptive. I’ve got a think about denying the existence of rules 🙂

  86. I just took a class and was disappointed in that 1. Too much of the classroom time was filled with discussion of technology – because this is what you can do in a classroom! 2. all of the shooting/post assignments bored me. My own shooting bored me. I did finally remember listening to my brilliant musician brother playing scales for hours on end. Those shooting assignments are like doing scales, experimenting with my tools and muscle memory. Ok, they will help me get better control of my craft, the shoot, process, and output. But WHAT FOR? 3. But we had one assignment to choose a photographer and do a prentation on their work. Wowza! I found a guy whose work blew me away, and my teacher pushed me to articulate WHY he blew me away. Find words. Study him. Contrast his work to other folks whose work didn’t hit me like that. …so instead of practicing scales, I listened to a brilliant solo performance, was transported……this lesson stays with me. And a few techniques I learned.

    So I keep ruminating on this question while I’m shooting: what gives this scene emotional intensity?

    1. Fantastic! Two great take-aways here: study the work of others and ask yourself where is the emotional core of the image? The course I’ll be teaching next month does both of these a lot. Studying the masters and the photographs I love has been one of the best things I’ve ever added to my photographic discipline.

  87. Early on in photography, I thought composition was mostly about isolating the subject. While sometimes that works, I wonder how I can better achieve balance (i.e., of elements in the frame) and context (i.e., to sometimes reveal subject’s surroundings, environment, etc.)

    1. There’s so much more to composition. Sadly, it gets taught purely as “where do I put the thing in my frame” That matters, and isolation matters, but how we isolate and why is much more important.

  88. Hi David,
    I enjoy your videos and look forward to this series. I want to repeat the comment that Erik Anderson made. Most of your photos I’ve seen have either a person or an animal in them. How do you create connection and/or intimacy with a landscape or found still life…something without an animate subject included? That would help me as a landscape/macro photographer and not a photojournalist.

    1. Hi Kathy! See my reply to Erik, as I think it’s a solid reply to you as well. There are beautiful photographs out there that don’t have animate elements – Edward Weston’s a great example. Find work you love and study it – what gives the image the “whatever it is” that you love about it, the thing that connects you to it?

  89. Hi David…I like where this is going. I find I focus too much in what is in front of me and don’t think of the different angles and points of view etc. I ‘m starting to move around a bit more but I think I’m afraid to move and “miss the shot”. I need to learn to slow down and look at what’s before me and what the options are. How do you do that.

  90. Thank you David for your enthusiasm and passion for photography. I need to feel inspired by the images I make. I’m not, they’re boring repetitions of what I’ve done before. I don’t know how to get my enthusiasm back. Please help.

    1. Anita. The easy answer is keep watching these videos and – when the course comes out – consider enrolling. The harder answer is where were you when you last felt the spark? What got in the way? And how can you go back there? For some it’s the need to put the big camera down and use an iphone. For some it’s learning to use film and slowing down. For some it’s the pursuit of a personal project. But no matter what I suspect there needs to be an element of challenge. If your photographs are boring to you, then you’re bored and you need to mix things up!

  91. Hi David,
    I think I try so hard to find the picture that tells a story, because that is what I am told I must have, that I am almost paralysed by the fear of getting it wrong. I spend more time reading blogs or following photographers than taking photo’s myself, madness really. I think that our lifestyles make us time poor. I have less time than I would like to learn my craft. Therefore I want to get more keepers than rejects, so I rush to take more images hoping that the math of percentages will win the day. The truth is I end up with more photographs I am disappointed in. So I think the challenge for me is, to learn to slow down and to ‘see’ the picture.

    1. That sounds like a step in the right direction, Andy. But perhaps not the only step. Slowing down is going, but being mindful and intentional – studying your sketch images, and being more willing to get it wrong. In fact, TRY to get it wrong. My best lessons come from my biggest failures. 🙂

  92. If and when your heart leaps at a photograph seen in a book or exhibition, that is the moment not just to catch your breath, but to stay looking at it a long time to try to understand why it is so compelling. Not to bother to make this effort is to deny yourself the privilege and opportunity to learn.

  93. As I go out to just practice photography, I struggle to look at those familiar sights in new interesting ways. When I travel often we are on the move and I end up with more traditional shots instead of “wow” shots.

    1. Perhaps you’re looking at the wrong thing? 🙂 Forget looking at familiar sights and scenes – look for graphic elements. Look for the light. The shadows. The repeated elements. In the course I’m releasing next month I break down a whole bunch of compositional elements – and I think if you look for those things, not for scenes, you’ll see things differently. I’ll be interested to see what you think of the next two videos, especially the third one about learning to see better, which is what your comment seems to be about. 🙂

  94. the big obstacle for me is making the transition from something that grabbed my eye – that drew my attention as something beautiful or engaging I want to capture – to an image in the camera frame that is now separated from its surroundings and must be interesting on its own.

  95. I teach photography, as well as practice it for a living. I only say this because the subject of composing better shots is always at the forefront of my thought process, whether shooting or teaching. I hate gear discussions….I still use a Canon 5dmk2 and a 70D….and neither one of them helps me take photos I’m happy with. LIGHT helps me…..CONTRAST helps me……CONNECTING helps me…..BEING TOTALLY PRESENT helps me…..the camera just records the moment. My biggest challenges are 2-fold; 1 – finding the TIME to go shoot while juggling a pro music career (freelance drummer) alongside photography. 2 – Staying INSPIRED to shoot, when I never meant to do it for $ but wound up doing so anyway. Clients don’t want edgy, compelling photos…..they want safe, boring ones… least that’s been my experience shooting headshots and portraits. But, as I always tell my students….not once…..EVER…..has a client asked me what gear I use. 🙂

    1. Sounds like you and I would enjoy a drink and a conversation, Gary. Amazing how many of us rely on the gear instead of our brains. 🙂

  96. My biggest problem is getting beyond the “first take” of an image. How do I see more and make the image hiding in my subconscious that drew me to the subject?

    1. Hi Stephen – How many sketch images do you make? How much walking around do you do? Sounds like you need to be forced into some creative play – ex: I won’t leave this scene until I’ve spent more than 30 minutes, explored it from 10 different angles and tried it from several very different POV (points of view). Did you even see what it looked like with a wider lens and really close? Did you try a way lower POV? How about a longer lens and shot from 12 feet further back? Play!

  97. One of my biggest challenges is to think away from “the rules.” I have several so ingrained in my mind (I.e. rule of thirds) that it’s challenging for me to not follow these. I learned, and was told, early on that “your subject shouldn’t be in the centre of the photograph. ” It’s tough changing my thinking and shooting.

    1. You know what you do to change behaviour and get out of the rut, right, Monica? You go hard in a different direction. identify the rut (I put everything into the rule-of-frigging-thirds!) and give yourself an assignment / constraint and shoot specifically to that new constraint. Place key elements anywhere else and play with ways to make that interesting. 3rds? Try the centre! Try a grid of 5ths! Identify the rut, then renounce it for a while! 🙂

  98. I feel like by following the ‘rules’, I’m just taking the same compositions as everyone else. I want to know how to bring more emotion into the images I take.

  99. Hi David… Great video, it’s compelled me to leave a comment 😉

    I take a lot of landscape photos in the mountains around my cottage in Western Alberta… but I struggle with tighter shots around canyons and coulees… on bright days, the contrast is just too much and on overcast days, where the light is flat, it is hard to get enough definition and the “granite” in the foreground blends too much into the granite in the background and the photos lose perspective. Its hard to make out the 3 dimensional composition and the picture just becomes confusing.

    If you have ideas around improving this I’d be most grateful!

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge…

    M. S.

    1. HI Morely – Ah, this is the dance, isn’t it?! 🙂 I think this is going to take time to find the time of day that works best in the locations you love, or to find locations that work best with the light you love. Learning to work with contrast is part of the journey. Could you perhaps change your expectations about the contrast being too much and see if there’s something to be done with the great shadows that contrast forces upon us? Could the more flattened images be more interesting and abstract because of the very fact that the softer light doesn’t force the 3-dimensionality on us? Could introducing strobes bring some of that dimension back?

  100. Great Start and I am looking forward to the series. I think I struggle with the fact that I “feel” that a compelling photo must have a human aspect – and by that I mean a person. I would like to understand and see better how I can make a compelling photo, one that touches the viewer, and not necessarily have a person in the frame.

    1. Erik – My big challenge to you would be this: what photographs have you experienced – online or in books, magazines, prints – that have moved you in some way that do NOT have a human in them? There are a lot out there – at least for me. What about them makes them interesting or compelling to you? Is it the graphic qualities? Is it the mood, the light, the colour? Figure that out and you’re a step closer to making those images yourself.

  101. Seeing, understanding, and using the different qualities of natural light.

    1. Wilhelm – Be sure to watch the 3rd video – I’ll be talking about seeing. I took a year once to just study light and it comes down to this : get out there and look for it, take notes mentally about what kind of light it is, where it comes from, what it gives you – and then play with it all so much that you are familiar with it. Familiarity is how we see!

      1. Love the idea of studying light for a year. That tip alone will help me improve. We think we know light, it’s familiar, but it’s definitely worth studying this intently since light is what we write with.

  102. Hi David,
    Good idea! I really like the way you approach those topics.
    Not exactly a question …. Bresson (or any other of your choice) and the grid of dynamic symmetry … in capturing … during editing while looking at contact sheets …

  103. Great stuff. I finally feel like I will get where I want to be with my photography. At least, I hope to learn how to select the prime focus in an image. I often get in front of a great landscape and I know I should probably be doing more than one shot but I seem to always cramp everything in one. Hope you can help me David.

    1. I do too, Daniel, but like I said this is a familiar struggle and I think so many of us just need to get the visual design stuff into our heads and then to start playing!

  104. The more I learn about photography, the more I realize how important post-processing is. As much as one might position the visual elements to create a pleasing or compelling photo, editing the photo to guide the viewers eye around the photo seems almost as necessary. Would you agree?

    1. Honestly, I think this is about preference. The longer I do this the less I do in post-production and rely purely on visual design and story-telling. Even my dodging and burning has become less over the last couple years. So, sure, for some people post-processing is a means of leading the eye, but you can do that – through different means – purely with composition as well. It’s all what you’re into 🙂

    2. You are missing the point entirely. Composition moves the eye where you want it to go as a photographer – NOT processing the image in LR, Photoshop, etc. Processing helps strengthen what you have captured in your composition, it does not over-ride it.

    3. I would not really agree, as I look at it another way. You can consider a photograph to be much like a lady and post processing being like the lady’s makeup, jewels, accessories, perfume, clothes, hair etc. Is it the lady that matters or the extras that just enhance her appearance? I prefer to think in a similar way with post processing, if the photographic subject is not interesting, pp won’t help me either. With this mentality I mainly invest time in pp for photographs that have something special. I look at the composition of the image as the appearance of a lady, and the subject/light as her personality/character.

  105. Asymmetry vs symmetry? I wonder about what I want the viewer to see first and then move or not through the rest of the photograph

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