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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 102 of 107

Elements of Design


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 102 of 107

Elements of Design


Lesson Info

Elements of Design

Alright, folks. Let's dive into the next little section here. And this is called Elements of Design. And this is something that is taught in a lot of art and photography classes. And these are just elements that we tend to look at and it's the way we view images in many ways. First element that we can use is line. We love lines, because it's essentially a handrail for the eyes. Our eyes will tend to look at a line because it's got a strong contrast and it will move through the photo on that line. And so any sort of photograph that has good lines, well that's a good element. Doesn't mean that it will be a good photograph, but at least it's at least a good element to start with. And you'll see that this is a very common theme in photography, is having a line. Your eyes will follow it from one end to the other. And so, definitely something to look for. Now the lines can be broken up into many different subcategories. Alright, so first up is the diagonal line. The diagonal line is said to ...

be a little bit more dynamic. With humans, we expect things to be either horizontal or vertical. And so, having some angled lines in the photograph can make it a little bit more interesting. And so, anytime you see a lot of strong diagonal lines, that's going to be a good potential element to have or to make a photograph around. And so in some ways, these are kind of good subject choices that might make good photographs. And so these strong diagonal lines are just good elements in any sort of photograph. And so these are found all over the place. No doubt. Another type of good line to have is a curved line. And that is a more soothing line than the straight line. And so, using a curved line, especially a spiral line is going to be a very interesting line for the eyes to look at. This is very comforting. This is like a type of place that is a very inviting place, that nice curved line in there. And it's not to say it's better or worst than a straight line, but having that curve does give it a certain feel. Even that little small S curve of the ostrich neck. Or those sculptures that we've seen a number of times before. Trees will often have very good lines as well. Another concept in lines is the leading line. And that is just that your eyes follow lines and have that bring your eyes to the subject that you want it to be. And so your eyes tend to just kind of flow, go with the flow of the lines, following them into the subject. And so in this case, those black curved lines are kind of significant lines leading us down the street. Or taking us to the trees and the rocks in the distance. And so leading lines taking us to the point that we want. Now, when you take a line and you create something a little bit more complex with it, it'll be a shape. And so, we love shapes. Shapes simplify the subjects for us. We can identify shapes from great distances. We're shooting straight down into a river, and I can see a face in this rock. Just a subtle little face and that's a nice little shape to have in there. And so shooting those silhouettes at twilight time, a good time for adding some shapes into your photograph. Finding some details that have interesting shapes to them. Using shallow depth to field to really make that shape very very clear. And a lot of these are very simple images, but I think they're good at making a quick statement. And so then using shape and shadow. Shadows are of course a very strong element that we've used. We've talked about shadow framing can be very nice. Bout having the shadows as a significant portion of the frame, big important element in many cases. And so we've talked about that side lighting for using strong contrast for where you're working with those shadows. And so those shadows really give us a lot of feel for the texture of a particular environment. They reveal a little extra information that we might not have seen other wise. And so playing around with the shadows and light areas is definitely a good arena for playing around. And for anyone who is interested in getting into black and white photography, shadows get to be very very important. And in this case, a lot of times we don't necessarily need to see a lot of information in the shadows. It's okay if they're very very dark and they're ... They help kind of set the tonal range for the entire photograph. Maybe one of my favorite photographs for using shadows in there. There's a lot of different shadows of different things going on in there. And it's definitely a much better photo with those little extra shadows in there. I talked about this a little bit in the human scale section, but the human shape is something that can be identified very very easily. And even though the people are not very big in this frame, they do stand out very very quickly. And your eyes find them. And so when we see people in the shot, we can instantly identify them and we can start putting ourselves in their shoes. And so including a small person in your photograph in this manner is a very helpful element. It's kind of a ... As one of the photographers I was interviewing on one of our photos, he goes, "It's the cookie. It's a little extra bonus cookie that you get to in there." And so, having a small human person in the frame is perfectly fine, because your eye will be drawn to it naturally. We're curious about what all these other humans are doing out there. And with humans and non-humans, we're also interested in exactly what they're doing. What's going on between them and do we understand that? And so the gestures that you see that these animals or people are making, can we infer what's going on? Tension between these two. You know, there's an alertness that's going on. You can tell that this is more than a casual walk. This is a walk with purpose. A caring gesture. From Bhutan, one of the dances in preparation for their Paro festival. They do a lot of dancing. And so when we see a human body part like this in a position we can kind of identify what that feels like for ourselves and we are drawn with a closer connection with that subject when we can identify more about what they're doing. And so each of those body positions kind of show us a little bit more about what's going on. And sometimes we'll see gestures with items that don't really move in any real sense. For me, this tree really shows a gesture. For me, it kind of reminds me, if anyone knows the Pixar logo? With the lamp that kind of moves around. It reminded me of that. Sometimes they can be funny gestures. Alright, this is the biggest "Gimme" in photography. Alright? So if you just want a good photograph, this is the easiest one to take a good photograph that's interesting. I always love as I scroll around on the internet, "Best Photos of the Year." Alright, let me see the collection of 20, 30 photos. And almost a third of them, maybe half of them fall into the pattern category. Our brains love a pattern. It's just interesting when one subject is replicated over and over and over again. And in almost every circumstance, a pattern will make an interesting shot. You can have a pattern of garbage, and if it's the right type of garbage, the right color and the right pattern to it, it's gonna look good. And so, finding a pattern and then filling the frame. And so that's one of the key things, it's not revealing the magician's trick going outside the frame, you know where the pattern is, cause we like this pattern to go continuously throughout the frame. And so, there's so many pattern shots, I really have to kind of cut it down in this class to figure out, you know, which ones do I want to show you, cause it is so easy. As soon as you see something replicated, and our society is just filled with patterns. Cause it's a very efficient system of building and nature and everything else. We see these all over the place. That's why I love these. They're very very simple. Slightly mysterious shots, but our brains enjoy looking at these in many ways. So if you have a pattern, you can break the pattern. And that can be a lot of fun. And so if you have a pattern of something, and then a couple of things, or something that just sets apart from that whole pattern. It's going to drawn a little bit more attention. It's back to the old Sesame Street, which one of these things is different than the other? That's what draws our attention, it's that one thing that's off. We may have a whole bunch of leaves, but we've got this one rock that's kind of sticking out. That's going to draw your attention. We like something that stands out from the rest. Go in that opposite direction. The one thing that's different. It does seem like what our society focuses on. It's not the one that better, necessarily, it's the one that different that gets all the attention. And so when you see that one flower that's a little bit different, that's the one that's going to make it interesting.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan