Skip to main content


Lesson 14 from: Mastering the Art of Photography

Chris Weston

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info


With a camera, what you see is what you get. Unlike the human eye, cameras record every minute detail, which can reduce the visual impact of a photograph. In this lesson, Chris reveals how he uses the viewfinder to improve his compositions and ensure every pixel counts.
Next Lesson: Choosing Lenses


Class Trailer

Class Introduction - Three Steps To Creative Photography


Firing The Creative Mind - Part 1: The Camera Points Both Ways


Firing The Creative Mind - Part 2: Letting Go Of Judgement


Firing The Creative Mind - Part 3: Detaching From Outcomes


Practicing Mindfulness In Photography


Finding The Visual Narrative


Behind-the-scenes: Naples


Seeing Beneath The Surface Of Things


Lesson Info


If you or I were a camera, it would have a resolution of 576 megapixels, 10 to 20 times more than today's cameras. That's a lot of data too much, as it turns out, for the brain to process without imploding, and especially so, given that much of the data our eyes collect is unnecessary to everyday life. So to prevent a catastrophic meltdown, your brain simply ignores much of what your eyes see, which is great, say, when you're driving a car and need to concentrate on avoiding hazards. But not so good when you're taking pictures because what our brain ignores, the camera doesn't with a camera. What you see is what you get with the wig cameras see and record everything. Which brings me to point number one. When you look through your viewfinder, every pixel counts. It's important you take time to explore the whole image space and notice every detail present in the frame, not just the area where the action is taking place or where the subject happens to be, and you have to decide how that d...

etail is going to affect your composition and what to do about it. a simple trick I've learned over the years, irrespective of what I'm photographing, is to review the image space in sections section by Section I mentally divide the viewfinder into small boxes, so in my head it looks something like this. Then I look at what's going on visually in every one of those boxes to assess what part they're playing in relation to my visual narrative. What I'm looking for are positive elements and negative ones. So let's review my scene here. I have a central subject, the lighthouse, the beach huts. Give me some mid ground interest and the track leads the I from the foreground into the picture space. These are positive elements, all adding to my story. But what else do we see here? There's a bent sticking out from this green hut here. There's a light colored stone block and a van, and they're distracting telegraph wires and telegraph poles in the background as well as a concrete building. And my leading lines don't go to the lighthouse. But past it now every one of these objects is a distraction that I need to get rid of before I settle on a composition and press the shutter, which in this case I can do simply by moving my position a few feet to one side. Of course, with some subjects, this is easier, while with others is easier said than done with mostly static subjects, you have time to carefully consider the image space with wildlife or sport to pick two examples. You're often acting in split seconds, and there isn't enough time to go through this process while you're shooting away. Which is why I try to anticipate the action and set my framing before I make the shot. Here is an example of what I mean for this image. I wanted to capture a sense of the bear looming interview. So as the bear approached, I quickly studied the environment and found this spot. I like the way that all grasses and the driftwood create a natural foreground barrier from which the bear emerges and the stony outcrop creates an implied circle that takes you from the foreground around to the bear. The background was nice and Uncluttered, and it gave me the perfect backdrop for the subject, and then I waited to press the shutter, so there was separation between the grasses and the bear. So the next time you look through your viewfinder, remember what the camera sees is what you get, so make sure that what you get is what you want. If you like the idea of dividing the picture space into a grid, most digital cameras have an electronic grid that is turned on by the setup menu. It usually shows that one third grid rather than the more focused one I use in my head, but it's a great place to start now. Another option is to get a screen cover like this and draw a grid onto it. You can then use the LCD screen to review the image space again. It's not perfect as you won't be able to use it for moving shots, but it will work with static scenes like landscapes, and it's great practice for creating the habit of doing it in your head

Ratings and Reviews

Gary Hook

Wow, what a wonderful journey. I love the concept of telling a story with one's photos and as I go through past images, I'm seeing them in a much different perspective. That's the good news, The bad? The lost opportunities I never 'saw' before; however that is a good thing. There is so much to internalize with the material so that it can get out of the head and into the 'heart'. I also found the concept really helps me with composition, both in camera and post. Biggest take away, as Chris underscored in his closing, is to slooooow down, take the time and feel it. Don't be so quick to leave one scene as there remain other aspects, yet to be discovered. A great experience that I truly enjoyed Thank you


I loved this course - in particular the latter part of it in which he demonstrated how post processing lets you really tell the story of the image. Another fabulous course. Thanks Chris & thanks Creative Live.

Abdullah Alahmari

Thanks a lot to mr. Chris Weston This course is great and It is a 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 course for me. Beside the other course ( mastering photographic composition and visual storytelling) both courses are Complementing to each other and highly recommended.

Student Work