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Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds

Lesson 12 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds

Lesson 12 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

12. Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds

As we're talking about vision and creativity, we've been talking about it all morning how there are things that you can do to strengthen your vision and strengthen your creativity, but ah lot of where that comes from is just loving life and living life. So if you're cracked out on doughnuts like I am right now, let's talk about lines of direction, lines of direction, also known as leading lines, something that I use a lot of in my images and for me leading lines or not, just again being clever for the sake of being clever it's, a very deliberate tool used to push her I directly to your subject and also help your I navigate around in the frame. So for example, katie and jonathan's wedding here, this is a hotel in atlanta, georgia. I have more leading lines here than you can possibly count. You have the lines going up, taking you up and down through the frame you have the circular lines at the top, which premier like a funnel pushing you down into the frame, and then you have the left to...

right right to left sort of terrorist lines leading you right to your subject and then their heads air right there against the light, so none of this was an accident, the composition was chose very, very, very deliberately because of all of those lines but you can't forget when you're looking at leading lines that you need to consider everything else that you're bringing to the frame you can't just have really great leading lines and really crappy lighting or really great leading lines really great lighting in a really bad lin selection or worse great leading lines great lighting great lin selection and your clients doing nothing one of my big pet peeves is the type of picture that some of my friends and I like to call a pretty person in a pretty place where nothing's actually happening oh my gosh we have this amazing building and then we have a bride and groom in front of this amazing building and they're kissing okay? I mean that doesn't tell me a story it's a people kissing in front of a pretty building so if I'm trying to do something like this if I'm trying to do little person big scene or pretty people pretty place there needs to be actual gesture in the picture there needs to be movement in the picture there needs to be the subjects in my picture need to actually be telling a story so when I'm judging a print competition and when I'm looking at my own pictures for print competition if you take the subject out of the scene is the subject still interesting and for me in this instance there looking at each other you have a clean silhouette you have clean body movement you have a sense of them in their space. Yes, if I took katie and jonathan out of this picture and drop them on a white background I would still think their body positioning was interesting so if you think okay, I'm gonna put my clients in front of this building or okay, I'm going to do this thing and your default is ok guys just kiss or smile at the camera, take them off that framed put them in a blank background is what they're doing still compelling is the building incredible but the light on your subject crap well, if you take them off of the background then you have people in crappy lighting so all of these things need to tie in to each other. Yes, sir. Backup of course you're pretty far away from them. I'm on the ground and their three stories up, right? So how are you directing them? Arguing cellphone with your assistant? Yes. So, guys, you're gonna go up like the third floor and I was like, you see that sconce over there? I want you go stand right in front of it and I was like, I'm going to send my assistant up with you we're going to talk to each other on the cell phone she's gonna tell you exactly what to dio and it was really just like you know put your arms up and then just look at each other don't kiss because the second a silhouette kisses then it's a creepy siamese twin kissing face blah blur thing so if I'm doing a silhouette I don't want their faces to touch and then my assistant is literally just off camera right or left behind a column talking me on the phone nice and easy again sometimes you're leading lines are deliberate I'm outside I'm looking in this is carling getting ready is carlin beautiful yes she is she's very very beautiful is the dress beautiful yes it is it's very very beautiful but you might I go straight to karl and not because she's a beautiful human being but because the lines in the frame take you all the way across the frame and directly to her face I mean how much more literal can I be I literally put a line pointing at her head leading lines but sometimes they're more subtle sometimes they're a little bit more hidden sometimes it isn't the deliberate line on the side of the building shoving your eye directly to your client's face sometimes it's a more seen within a scene sort of thing were talking the other day about marcus bell and rocco and how I learned from them to see bigger than your scene and seem more than what's in front of you and see your scene within a scene my leading lines were kind of a scene within a scene here is well outside of the plaza hotel in new york and this could be the plaza hotel in new york or the hilton garden inn in tulsa, oklahoma I don't care where you are what I'm seeing behind me what those lines are it's just a building and because I'm a super photo shot master I'm even in the frame you can see me down in the bottom if you follow the lines in the car all the way down and you see me holding my camera I make mistakes too it's okay all photoshopped myself out later it's fine, but I knew that I would have a split second when jessica leaned into the car that her face would cross across these lines and it would be an instant so I just said, hey just when you get the car can used to it slowly take your time you know you don't have to rush I didn't tell her it was for a picture I wasn't trying to make her feel self conscious you've got a big ball gown you're about to get in the car just go nice and slow no rush okay so the second she opened the door on her side I'm clearly on the other side of the car the light hitting the right way she leaned in and magic happened and your eye goes directly to her face because I have made a deliberate choice not only to frame her in the door, which is about as literal as it can possibly get but tow have those leading lines take you straight to your subject and again, sometimes you're leading lines are that's pretty literal that's again pretty literal and again this is just a beach cottage with folding blinds on the window oh, nothing fancy it doesn't have to be something fancy going outside and shooting in through a closed door after I had been outside, I was shooting carl in through that window, several friends back the black and white where the line went straight to her face same scene she's in the same place I went around to go inside and I realized that the blinds on the door were closed and I was like, you know what? I bet if I reached inside the door popped open those blinds went outside and close the door? I could maybe see an interesting scene now if I had gone outside and I had looked in through the doors and I hadn't seen anything right? Like if I'd looked in through the doors and been like, oh, I mean that's not really doesn't really work, I would have said, oh, well, it doesn't really work and I would have gone back inside I would have kept on going but it did work, and if you look down in kind of the right side, you can see the reflection behind me. You can see the trees, it gives it a little sense of time and place. You can see the bottom exactly what I'm doing with my land selection in all of my settings, staying true to everything that I've talked about so far with lin selection and camera settings, it is right there for you, but again, it's, just another way to bring your eye directly to your subject. I'm doing that primarily with the way it's lit and with the way it's composed, but these additional lines in the frame just help reinforce the story that I'm trying to tell same thing here, you cannot get more literal than this, but you have a leading lines up and down, and then you have the diagonal of the bannister, and then you have the curve of the floor before, so you snake up from the bottom, you come up and you find the bride and groom, and the up down left right in the window just brings you right into the center. Very deliberate choices put the bride right in between these two windows, the lines of the pew go from the bottom of the frame straight in, and they take you right into ellie. I understand that the windows are a little bit busy, but putting her deliberately in between those windows, the line in between the windows is another line that brings you straight down onto her head and before you say, well, yeah, but the bride was just really pretty of course she is she's beautiful, but all my clients are beautiful, and I'm not being sarcastic. I really actually I think that all people are actually really beautiful. Now I have to say something really heartless because otherwise you guys are going to think that I'm like going soft on you, but I really do think that my clients are beautiful people. The picture isn't powerful because ellie is gorgeous. The picture is powerful because it comes together technically, and you have a person giving you a moment and before you say, well, yeah, but you're in like some fancy upper westside church and it's like fancy no it's not I'm in the middle of rural nowhere here. The only reason why this is working for me is because I actually asked the church to turn all the lights off for me. We're done with the family formals the ceremony's ended, we've done the family formals upon the altar, we're getting ready to go, we're getting ready to leave for the reception I said, you know what before we leave, is there any way to cut the lights off in the in the congregation area? Yeah, yeah, of course we're shutting down anyhow, can you actually squared internal the lights off and they were like, okay, they turned all the lights off it's completely dark in there, I'm working with on ly the light's coming in through the stained glass window. So whether you are in fort myers, florida or spain, it's the same principles of composition and lighting and dealing with your subjects and I don't care if she's a hundred pounds or five hundred pounds it's still going to be a compelling photograph it's not about that. Sometimes the leading lines again are literal lines where I used the lines to create a frame and I put my clients in the frame that is a pretty literal interpretation of it, and sometimes the leading line is the line, but it's also a curve, you know, and I'm giving them somewhere tow walk, I'm putting them over there, your eyes travel left to right there, walking into the frame, you've got the line of the horizon leading you right in there, but then you also have the gentle curve of their body also leading you through the frame as well, so let's talk about center of interest no matter how you go about getting your image composed no matter what you put into the scene to see the scene there is always going to be a center of interest and how do you push your eyes to it sometimes it's really literal I showed this example the other day I it's a orthodox ceremony there are no seats everyone standing up the entire time and you have the wonderful distinction of being able to walk around anywhere you don't often shoot a ceremony indoors where you could walk around anywhere you want outside that's one thing if this ceremony is outside and we're out in nature I'm gonna walk around all over the place and my very strong belief about rules is if I'm in your house I will follow your rules but excuse me father donahue we're in a field somewhere you can't tell me that I can't go in the aisle I'm not in your church I'm not in your house I'm not going to be disrespectful but I'm gonna do my best to follow all of the rules if I am in the home of the person giving the ceremony whether it's a literal home or a synagogue or a church or a temple or wherever but if we're outside I'm generally not going to check with them on rules because you know we're outside but in this sort of service how did I get behind the candelabra? Well I was invited to walk around sweetheart you go wherever you want seriously like wherever I want yes wherever you want but then I realized that the ceremony was actually held with everyone standing with everyone walking around and me moving around was no different than everybody else moving around so it was great so what I did to force your ida koch is faces I went to the other side of the candelabra and I shot through the candelabra I like to create a lot of natural vignettes and my scene not by going into light room later and throwing a bill have even yet on it but defined elements in the scene that can help vignette my image for me sometimes it's with light ton sometimes the light on my subject is so strong as it is here in a sense that when I expose correctly for the subject the rest of the scene goes dark sometimes it's because I've literally used things to obstruct parts of my lens do any of you know who joey ellis and if you don't you should because he is a he's like twelve and he's a genius it's cos this is unfair what is he like twenty two it's totally unfair nobody should be that good and that young but he posted this really great tutorial on his block the other day he got to shoot one of the ellen burstyn when she was in that god awful horrible flowers in the attic lifetime movie remake anybody? Oh god, please tell me I'm not the only one I'm clearly the only one that watches atrocious television in this room, but he got to photograph her and he did this whole tutorial on his block where he talked about like dunking up the lens and muddying up the lens by putting stuff in front of it to enhance the scene in to take your eyes directly to your subject and it's just again what I'm talking about here introducing other elements to push your eye right to your center of focus and if you don't rejoice else blawg, you're doing yourself an extraordinary disservice because talk about a master of creativity right there that guy is like, I hate him because he is he's so good in a way that you can't teach, so we're not talking about him anymore. We're done but again center of interest sometimes it is a very literal way of framing the frame I've put my clients in the center of the frame and that's not something that I do a lot I generally don't tend to put my clients right there smack dab in the very center because I think that that's compositionally boring but sometimes in the right scenario that's compositionally extraordinarily powerful, especially when I've used a framing device like putting them in this open edged it's one of those like covered bridge things right? And we're just kind of in the middle of a we're on the side of the road in vermont there's this cool covered bridge and we just went out and that I love it. It goes to show that you could actually make a silhouette against a tree in the middle of the day. It doesn't have to be night time or you don't have to have some crazy lighting that you invented yourself, but it it's pushing your eye directly to your center of interest, which in this instance is in the center of the frame or again like so during ashley's dance with her dad. I'm on the other side of one of the reception tables and I'm shooting through the centerpieces, and I'm shooting through the candles to get to my subjects to get to my center of interest sometimes it's a little literal interpretation of center of interest my interest is in the center sometimes it's a little looser yeah it's in the center but it's, not a person it's, an element center of interest, also works when you're working with details or when I'm shooting through a plant she's getting ready in she's not even in her house she's not even in her parent's house she's in one of her mom's friend's home she's getting her makeup done in the kitchen and I'm shooting through a plant so for those of you who think you have to be somewhere fancy, or you have to be working with a supermodel to make an amazing image, you could make a great image in somebody's loft kitchen by shooting through a plant. If you're looking at you're light and you're making proper technical decisions with your exposure and with the lindsay you're bringing to the game, I think one question that was good talking about ceremonies, uh, k kennington asked you ask your clients how close they're okay with you getting during the ceremony beforehand or no, you just work with your seventy two hundred? Yes, no, I don't ask them how close that I don't say how close you're comfortable with me getting to you because I know that I'm not gonna do anything obnoxious I'm not going toe like climb under the hoop a and put my arm around the rabbi and prop my sixteen thirty five on his shoulder, I'm just not going to get that close, even if I were able to get that close, even if I had the ability in the location where they were literally like get up here and come on in, I wouldn't do it because I think it's intrusive and I think it's also disrespectful to the rest of the guests there, they're not there to see me work they're there to watch their family, their friends get married so I feel like it's a respect thing, the stay back so I'm never gonna get close enough that the question would even be a concern I would hope it wouldn't be joint photo would like to know about do you ever have trouble focusing when you're shooting through windows and other obs jackson such? Of course, of course, it's, like I was talking about earlier how my mackerel will sometimes struggle if I've got sparkly on sparkly, and in that instance, if I'm having trouble focusing there's, this awesome thing called manual focus, switch over and do it yourself there was a time when we had to do it only ourselves that was before my time not there yet, but yeah, there's, you know? Oh my gosh, my camera struggling and it doesn't know when it can't figure out what's going on here just pop over to manual, you'll get the job done faster anyhow, good, great thank you so let's talk about one of my one of my sort of compositional pets, which is rule of thirds and I showed this example the other day and I talked about how when I'm working with rule of thirds for some strange bizarro reason, I like to shove my clients down in the bottom right corner of the frame I actually thought about this yesterday, I was like, why do I do that? I don't know, and I really think that it's because my eye sees you see left to right when you read. So when I'm traveling my eye across a frame, I wanted to tell the story left to right to get to the punch line at the end seems right, but if you're going to work with your rule of thirds, if you're going to put your client in one of these third's, the other two thirds have to be interesting. The other two thirds have t have to support the story that you're telling. So I showed this example the other day, the reason why this imageworks is multi fold it's the lins I've chosen because the seventy two, two hundred at two hundred gives me the compression of taylor and joe off of this fountain that's in front of them, and it compresses the fountain off of them and you can see here I'm not it to wait. I'm actually at four five, so both taylor and joe are in focus, and so I can pick up a lot of this water and focus as well. I met a thousandth of a second it s o two hundred, you can clearly see that it's a pretty bright day. I have, however, deliberately put them in a very strong shaft of light so that by the time I composed by the time I exposed properly for taylor space here, my background went dark. Now I fear emmanuel shooter, you're simply adjusting your settings accordingly. I'm an aperture priority shooter, which meant that I had to roll my exposure compensation dial down about a stop and a half to two stops to combat the light, because if I let my camera think for me it's going to try to equalize the scene and equalizing the scene is never something that I want you'll see when we do work flow, you'll look at those history grams, my sister grounds are a technical nightmare. Anybody who's doing photography one o one and taught to make a bell curve out of your history? Ram would look at mine and say, no, she has no idea what she's doing because my history rams have jaggi spikes in them and big dips in the center. I'm like the anti history ram, so I'm definitely never, ever, ever looking at my history rams the only time I ever would as if I'm shooting in super super bright sunlight and I can't really see if what I'm getting is what I want I might pop over to the history, ma'am, but I know I'm looking for jagged spikes if I see a bell curve, I know that I'm not really getting exactly what I want so while your camera does a great job of thinking for you in terms of exposure, you have to know when to tell it no, no little friend, I know you're trying to make this soft and even the entire way through, but I don't want it soft and even I want dark darks and bright lights, which is what I'm going for an image like this and compositionally the way the water is falling necessitated that I put them in the bottom right? Because if I'd put them in the bottom left the water would have been traveling away from them it would not have let your eye directly to them sometimes rule of thirds because I believe that negative space also tells a story I think that floating a person in a frame and leaving the negative space around them gives you room to breathe gives you room to think there's a reason why I like negative space an album design because I like the images to stand on their own in a loose space there's nothing wrong with that negative space for the point of negative space is kind of dumb, but if I'm going to leave that blank space so that the light is more prominent so that it is a more stark scene that's a deliberate compositional and lighting choice not oh well I just left all this other stuff over here and maybe I'll just prop it later yes ma'am the picture in the kitchen that you shot through the plant with the dragon I thought it was at one point aye but then this one here is that four is there can you talk through a little bit how maybe use I made those selections well the picture with the bride and out let me step back for it it's not so far away that I can't find it here this one I'm at one point eight because I'm using my eighty five million it's a small kitchen it's a small house a seventy two two hundred really isn't something I'm going to bust out during a getting ready anyhow and the eighty five one eight eighty five one four out one eight I was struggling with it at one four because I wasn't getting enough of her eye and focus I was just getting a lash here and there and I wanted the whole eye so I tried one six and I landed on one eight and that's what really worked for me I wanted her eye to be the prominent point and everything else to be secondary but you're working with the compression of an eighty five millimeter limbs so the combo of the eighty five and the one point eight is creating the effect here then to come back to where we were what wait you talking this one here now the next one? That one, this one that f four I'm also shooting it two hundred millimeters and I'm shooting it before because I want the entirety of him to be in focus, so it doesn't really have to do with two hundred eighty five, although you do need to know is I talked about the other day, the correlation between the f stop that you choose and the focal length that you're working at. I chose f for here because I knew I was going to get compression at two hundred and I wanted all of them to be in focus, not just the I I wanted to see his nose, I want to see his mouth, I wanted to see his hand, I wanted the boot near on him, so it was a deliberate decision in that regard and I had the room to back up and use my two hundred, so the compression helped me out a little bit, a swell that help. Okay again, we've got rule of thirds going on here. We've also got leading line it is the fountain going up and down is taking new rightto lauren's face the light on her face is also helping to find what my subject is, and all of these rules of composition are really just to take your eye to the subject. That's all I'm trying to do trying to tell us stronger story I'm trying to push your eye directly to the subject so we've got the line's going up and down, but also what's going on over here. The reason all the greenery is here is just to support the scene you don't have to crash zoom into your client's faces all the time, backing up, showing what's going on around them. It shows that we're outside. It shows that it's a beautiful day. We are near the art museum in philadelphia, so it shows kind of a park like atmosphere in an area that's very urban. So those other two thirds or simply to environmentally support the story that I'm telling and again rule of thirds, the other two thirds pusher I right towards the two of them and shooting through the centerpiece is on the other table and the lights bring your eye over to jill in her dad, and the scoop of the curtain in the background brings your eye down to jill in her dad. So the other two thirds or just to push your eye right over to where she is and the other two thirds just support the story that I'm telling.

Class Materials

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Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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