How To See Photos and Compositions – Mike Browne
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How To See Photos and Compositions – Mike Browne

October 10, 2019


If you change the way you look at things
the things you look at change Albert Einstein said that and he was nobody’s
fool. When I read it the other day absolutely sent me on fire, I was
thinking of all of you guys who send me messages saying ‘I’m really good at my
camera, I understand shutters and apertures and ISOs and all that good
stuff but I have real trouble seeing a picture’ and I just thought this is so
relevant, because if you change the way you look at something, the thing you look
at changes. Now I think we all want to grow and evolve as photographers, I mean
I’ve never had many people come out to me and say you know what my photos are
just too exciting, exotic and amazing I need to dull down a bit… we all want to
evolve and grow – myself included These are some of my own favorite personal
shots, they’re from workshops and photo- shoots and I think I’m pretty good at
photography, but I’m always looking for ways to learn more and grow, and right
now I want to go on a photo workshop with someone who’s an absolute master of
a genre which I know little about but to do that you’ve got to put in a bit effort, you’ve got to put a bit of time and practice you’ve got to make time for YOU to be
able to do it. So we’re gonna go and look at some exercises that you can do, some
things you can try to change the way you look at something – so the thing you’re
looking at changes, but you must do this on your own. Don’t think you can do it in
a hurry, don’t think I’ve got ten minutes because it will not work. Don’t think
you’ll do it while you’re walking the dog with your husband / partner / wife /
whatever because it will drive them insane! They don’t understand the
thinking and the work that has to go into ‘seeing’ photos and I think many of
you guys don’t either. You sometimes have this idea that myself and other
photographers will just go around and go click click click amazing picture – that’s it Yeah our keeper ratio is going to be
higher simply because we practice what I’m going to show you in a moment – many,
many times over many, many years Cameras don’t take pictures, you take pictures
using a camera. You’ve got to understand how your camera works, so you know, first
off is learn what those controls are my ultimate beginners course is the place
to go for that because it will get you understanding the controls you need, most
of them you don’t – most of its guff There’s only a few – go and do it if you are confused by that, and then go and practice
changing the way we look at things because when we do that the things we
look at change. Let’s go and give this a lash A ‘No Parking’ sign on a white gate
on a kind of dull day, doesn’t get much mean boring than that really does it? But
I promise you if you change the way you look at things the things you look at
change! Okay? This is going to help you see pictures, you’ve got to move, you’ve
got to think now look how do we look at a no parking sign? Even if we bother to
look at a no parking sign, which we probably don’t, but this is a good
exercise for you. Right let’s roll a bit of video on that, I’m just going to brighten it
up a little bit if I can, I think that’s about right. So it looks hideous doesn’t
it? It’s just boring, it’s just dull there’s nothing going on, if we come
closer it still, it’s just, kind of, really dull isn’t it? But what if we change the
way we’re looking at it? What if we start to come around here a bit? What if we
kind of – look you see – it’s immediately getting just that little bit more
interesting. If we bend the knees, look we’re getting some of those chimneys going on
up there. The thing you have to remember is don’t just look at the sign look at
the whole picture all the way around. If we kind of cut off
the chimneys a bit, it doesn’t look as good does it? If we were to have the lens
zoomed like that, it still doesn’t look as good. You’ve got to look at the whole
picture, change the way you’re looking at things. So that is somewhere there, you’ve
got to do the crazy crouch in public but you know, who cares. Just stop that video
and see if I can take a quick picture for you what are we doing? Settings they don’t
really matter, they’re really not that important for something like this. I mean
it’s only a test shot, I’m just gonna use about F5.6, focus on the
no parking sign, frame up our shot Here we go, but it’s a lot more interesting than just going like that… Let’s go and find another one It’s an obvious case inpoint isn’t it? You’ve just walked along the path here and you see this lovely little house here and you just think ‘Oh that’ll make a nice picture’. So you just kind of bring
out the camera and you go click like that Now look – first thing cut the
chimney off so, what are you going to do? You’ve got to kind of just tilt the
camera up a bit well, okay that’s what it looks like from there, it’s not that
special and of course you then think well I’ve got a picture of that, that’s
alright we’ve got the river and the house I’m gonna go and take a picture over
here and you go off over there but before you do, change the way you look at
the house – and the house will change so let’s go and look at it from over here Looks completely different doesn’t it? So
you can always take a shot from here You can do it like that but what about that tree in the corner of the shot? It’s not very
interesting is it? Also we’ve got somebody kind of coming across the
bridge, is it better empty or do you want people in it? These are all the things to
think about. Right now we’ve got people so I’m just gonna wait for them to go They’ve almost gone, so as they’re disap-
pearing out of shot let’s just have a little new look at it Okay Look, so we had that tree cut off on the edge What about if we just do that? Isn’t it a
bit more interesting? We’re just changing the way we look at it. Remember you must
always look all the way around these edges, don’t just look there at the
subject. Change the way you look at things So let’s just take that picture quickly
and then we’re going to explore another angle Let’s get that brighter – Oh [Sound of sirens] They know I’m here! Run!! Sorry I couldn’t resist that.
Let’s go look at it from over here You’ve probably seen this shot lots of
times, it’s in some of my courses, it’s in the Seven Steps to Perfect Pictures, it’s in
all sorts of things. It’s in several free videos as well but this is really how it
has to work. I know the sky is boring but look we’re changing the way we look at
things. Look so here’s our place from here. I think you’ll agree that looks so
much more interesting? You could increase the zoom a little bit and just take it
in there but we’re getting close to the tree so let’s take it back out a bit, I
know there’s somebody standing over there (most inconsiderately) but there
we go. So look, it’s a very, very different thing isn’t it? The house has changed, the
whole thing’s changed – it hasn’t you’ve changed the way you’re looking at it and
you’ve made it more interesting. So let’s just very quickly take that shot I’m
hoping the guy on the bicycle will disappear or I can maybe just kind of lose him.
There we go, we don’t want a van in shot do we? So let’s just take that picture.
We’ve got a car in shot, there we go the decisive moment. You see what a world of
difference it is when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change What if you like to shoot portraits? How would it work with that? This is Hannah she is an awesome portrait photographer in her own right
and is off to go and do Photo Journalism and documentary real
gritty earthy stuff so I’d better make sure I get it right hadn’t I? So what’s
the obvious one? The obvious one is going to be to have the camera this way up
isn’t it? Let’s explore this, let’s change the way we look at Hannah. So let’s just
say standard length lens about 50 millimetres and we do a full length and
we stand up here because that’s the way we see the world, it’s okay but it’s
not that exciting is it? What about if we got a bit lower and then look we changed
the background haven’t we? We’ve suddenly got sky in it, it’s a different
look. What about if we turn the camera the other way up? that’s going to change
the way we’re looking at Hannah isn’t it? and we shoot from here, look we’ve got a
kind of nice zig zaggy shape, let me roll you a little bit of video
and I can show you how it changes Here we go. Look isn’t that a nice shape?
Look we can change the composition and put some green in it just by bending my
knees a little bit, we’re changing the way we’re looking at something. What if
we turn Hannah up that way? You see? Look at what’s happening you’re
seeing this in real time, I’m not doing anything clever with the camera. What if we get in close What if we come in much closer and do
something like this? I know it’s a little bit out of focus I’m still
learning how to control the focus and video on the XT2. Let’s shoot that Focus on Hannah Here we go, now let’s try focusing on
Hannah and losing the sky. Let’s get closer Let’s make it a little more
intimate, it’s like we’re really close into Hannah. What about if we go camera up
that way at the very bottom of the frame like that? How about if we look at Hannah
in a completely mad and crazy way? What about if we climb on the bench up here
and look straight down? These are all things you’ve got to think about. Change
the way you look at things and the things you look at will change. Let’s
just move my focus point, let’s get the focal length right, let’s get the
exposure right, that’s looking good to me Nice one Hannah. You see that took what two
or three minutes? Whoop! Nearly landed on you That took two or three minutes we’ve
changed the way we looked at Hannah and the pictures of Hannah changed.
Photos begin in your head they don’t begin in the camera and it begins with being able
to see them in the first place So always remember this forever please that
if you change the way you look at something the thing you’re looking at
changes. Sure you’ve got to know your camera settings, you’ve got to know what
they do, the way they affect the image because you’re the one who’s in charge of that image and I don’t just mean the exposure
that’s a given. You’ve got to be able to do that because your camera will get
things wrong, it doesn’t know that you’re photographing a white cat and a snowy
scene and it’ll make the whole thing go grey. I’m sure you’ve experienced that.
This is why you need to understand your camera control so you can make what you
see into a reality. Do you want a soft foreground or a soft background? Do you want
it sharp all the way through? Do you want to stack the background up behind it, or do you want to expand it and open it out? These are all things you can do when you
understand how your camera works, this is why I said right at the beginning the
Ultimate Beginners Course is the place to go if you don’t because I can fast
track you through to that knowledge then you can start to interpret the things
that you’re seeing into an image file into a reality because that’s really all
the camera does, it turns what’s in there into an image file for you. So from now
into the future and forever please, please, please just keep looking at
things and remember when you change the way you look at them the thing
you look at changes. I know I’ve said it a lot but just remember that, memorize it
as a little thing. Now I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on this so
please post them below the video, it’s always interesting to know what you
think of things. If you care to like, share and subscribe to any of my videos
and subscribe to the channel it helps me make more free videos, it just keeps that
ball rolling and if you sign up to my newsletter I will drop you a line
whenever there’s a new video and also send you some free tips. Guys I hope that’s
been of some value to you take care and I’ll see you next time

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  1. Thanks Mike, Do you ever do photowalks as am quite local and know a few who would be interested since LCE/Sony don't seem to run them anymore? Many Thanks 🙂

  2. I get your point!! But believe me a "No Parking" sign is always going to create a boring picture, unless of course some vehicle is parked right in front of it!!

  3. As always, you are inspiring and enjoying so much your explanations and instructions. Hannah is awesome both in front and behind the camera! Thanks!

  4. Mike, this was just the content I was looking for! Thank you! I've asked once, and I'll ask again…marry me! I love you!

  5. I was travelling through Melbourne in a taxi a couple of years ago. Pulled out the phone and took a photo. My companion wondered what I had got a photo of. I had spotted a human sitting on a bench half bent over, in a similar way to the statue they sat under. There was a sense of mimicking. I then cropped the image as I had been too far for it to be anything interesting in the taxi, changed its composition doing that and cut out the additional busy detracting elements. Took the colour out to focus in on the similar form and shape of statue and human. My companion was very surprised I had spotted shot, and imagined what I wanted in that image in the short space of time I had. Practicing, watching, imagining all played a part. Working with the limitations, and using the tool I had to hand was fun.

  6. One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
    One more time:"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

  7. Always enjoy watching your videos Mike. Simple, straightforward, interesting and to the point. Don't ever change! Thank you.

  8. You could have flipped the picture like mirror of it while taking hana's photo. Also a photo from ground up (lying on the ground while she is sitting will make a brilliant composition having tree canopy at the background of hana's face.

  9. 0:04 He certainly wasn't! He discovered the Beatles and the rest is HISTORY! Respect!!!

  10. Great video Mike. Such a simple thing that can make such a huge difference to images. I do quite a lot of wildlife photography and although it can be difficult, getting the right background is as important as getting the subject right as it can make or break the image.

  11. Man, Mike, this is spot on. My first mentor made me sit in an alley watching a light pole (for $10 per hour), to see change. Thank you!

  12. I enjoyed your video composing technique.
    I know that some of the Bayer-sensor Fujis (X-T100; not sure about the current X-Trans ones) have a 4K PHOTO frame extraction mode, so you may wish to use one of those for this teaching method to save you switching back and forth 🙂 Thanks, I always enjoy your nutritious channel.

  13. I’ve been subscribed to this channel for about a month after it randomly showed up in my video feed. Being new to photography I’ve been subscribed to several great photographers who review gear, do some tutorials, landscapes and all around photography. But having found your channel here has literally changed the game for me in “Fundamental Learning” of photography, understanding and demystifying the things that didn’t seem to make sense and breaking down of what seem like calculus to simpler understanding where things make understandable sense. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way. So Thanks greatly Mike!

  14. Mike I just found you and watched the cloudy day video (loved it! I live in Oregon, USA and we have a lot of cloudy days). Changing the way you look at things or working the shot is sooo true. Great advice and I needed to hear it again. Thanks!

  15. Mike, I've been seriously considering dumping my Canon for a Fuji. I like the classic, tactile knobs, like my old film cameras.

  16. Cool video. I would quoat Lennart Nilsson: "I want to make the invisible visable". Anyway, grate practice of patients and spacial awareness.
    Keep it up!

  17. I've been into photography since 1983, when I got a Minolta XGM, took a break in the early 2000s (got married, had kids, wife had a point and shoot) and am recently getting back into it more seriously, exploring the digital world. It's very similar and very different, both at the same time. It's a bit overwhelming in a comfortable sort of way. It's odd. Regardless, you've helped a lot. You're the best photography teacher on YouTube by far, and you've guided me back into familiar waters more so than anyone else has. Many, many thanks, and keep doing what you do so well.

  18. If you carry a model toy car, rest it on top the fence. Think. If you Copt someone's style photography's boring. Been there and done it back in the 80's.

  19. Excellent video Mike and a subject often neglected. Great examples and a powerful message. Looks like you've lost a bit of weight compared to previous videos. Well done.

  20. Lots of food for thought in this one, Mike. Thank you. Another of my favourite photo tutors, Ray Scott, has a similar mantra: "It's not what you see, it's how you see it."
    Cheers from DownUnder.

  21. Great information! Work the Location or Subject until you have no more Shot. 
    How many images can you get from one location or subject? Most of the time it is way more one!
    Mike, I think you hit on this before, even if you have a zoom lens use your feet walk around don't just rely on the zoom.

  22. Thanks for the reminder — I used to do the perspective "dance" almost intuitively back in the day, before life interrupted my photographic journey. Now, years later, I've been able to reprioritize my photography back on top and, slowly but surely, those muscle memories are returning. Your video was very helpful.

  23. Great quote, but it wasn't Einstein that said that. It was Wayne Dyer who once said “Change The Way You Look At Things And The Things You Look At Change"

  24. 12 min in 1 sentence: try new angles, go around (climb etc) and seek for new perspective, pay attention to the background – how it frames the shot, explore

  25. Well done! I thoroughly enjoyed this video. Quick and to the point and really useful principles that can be used in real time.

  26. Great video, Mike! These are obvious things that we often ignore. Every time I watch one of your videos I'm dying to rush out the door and take some shots.

  27. "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change"….. Yet another sentence that sums up tons of thinking and trying when trying to find good subjects and compositions. Again a brilliant video, Mike, that makes it so much easy to kind of both remember and take with you the things you need to think about out taking pictures. So easy, yet so difficult, however, making really good sense. Thanks so much for sharing, Mike.

  28. Very good point, the picture starts in your head and the camera follows. Thank you for your inspiration. Cool 🙂

  29. Thank you Mike, as always it is much appreciated 🙂
    If some of you have problems changing the way you look at things try something that worked for me. Take something you don't like and take a photograph of it that you are proud of. It will force you to change perspective … photografically and mentally as well 🙂

  30. Great advice Mike – Thank you – indeed that is the crux of Photography – I guess it is same as saying "change your relative perspective of a shot, your photo will change". Hence you will have multiple ways to select a great shot of anything that you photograph.

  31. One of the most encouraging and inspirational videos on this subject that I've encountered. Great balance of theory, content, practicum, advice, etc… It really made me feel like I can accomplish the task, and not feel left envious of something unattainable. Thank you.

  32. Nice point about practice. I tell my wife I'm practicing my Kodak moments when I'm out shooting. Training the eye to see those Kodak moments.

  33. I use my Smartphone camera a lot and it kind of forces me to look about more rather than take the same type of images all the time with my DLSR … Sounds daft but it works for me .

  34. What a great video and so inspirational. I started thinking along these lines many years ago but never fully embraced it. And of course, the thought process involved applies to every camera from a smartphone to an expensive DSLR. The idea of actually running your eye around the edge of the frame to see what's included and what gets cropped is particularly useful. Thanks.

  35. Good to see you again, Mike. Excellent video. Very important point. Maybe one of the most important things. Been following you on and off for six years now. Learned so much from you. Your approach and passion for it just makes your channel so enjoyable.

  36. A great lesson Mike, thank you for sharing your expert knowledge, in such an easy to understand way.

  37. I honestly thought you were being silly when you stood above Hannah and then as you were starting to take the shot I thought to myself he's going to nail this. And you did! That was really cool.

  38. I thought it was Wayne Dyer who said that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. I guess it doesn't matter in the end, because it doesn't change the underlying message (just the way you look at it, hehe). Anyway, great video!

  39. Selfishly just paused it about a minute in. Yeh, cameras are not photography. Your brain is what you've got for creativity. If you don't practice, choose to stay in and watch tv instead of going out and practice, you get nowhere.
    I received an overwhelming amount of compliments from shots i think are rather dull, from members of a crew on a recent workshop with Mike Browne. Weather was not superb, so i tried to make the best of it. I have to pause and ask myself what it is that these viewers are liking about the images; why i am being told i see SO many things through my camera. Compliments are lovely, scary as hell when i don't know what the viewer is on about. Joke is my camera is glued to my hand. I don't ever stop and i go for long walks through the same places driving myself nuts looking for new composition. Exactly like Browne has said to do in the past. Composition skills sky rocket when you set a simple goal for yourself. and i mean yourself, DO NOT do this with anyone else, it is a solitary practice. I am a very solitary person, to the point where i worry people who love me. But it works.

  40. This is such a good video. I would add though you dont' even need a camera for this. I'm constantly thinking even when I dont' have a camera with me "if I was going/had to photograph this/him/her how would I do it?" Which usually starts with visualizing in my mind the final result I want after post processing and everything and than I thinking backward to the settings focal length, dof ect I would need to make it happen. Not only do I get practice seeing images this way I end up with a whole list of new images I want to come back to with my camera when the light, clouds, weather, ect is right.

  41. I think the point you are ultimately making, Mike, is that a good photographer looks to gain the highest aesthetic value for his/her images. That is to say, that when you are looking at a scene you need to view it from different angles in order to imbue in the image a longevity of interest within the viewer. Moving around will increase or decrease that longevity of interest (LOI). The more interest an image has, the more engaged the viewer will allow themselves to be, and respond to it with an aesthetic value. I'm making the exact same point you are making, only from a philosophical slant.

  42. You are amazing. I have seen so many photography channels but no one explains like you. You are so easy to follow. Thanks.

  43. Viewpoint alone governs perspective and changing viewpoint changes the perspective, another thing to consider when changing the way you look at things.

  44. I feel like I’ve hit a gold mine with these videos! Mike! Informative and hilarious! Thank you!

  45. Just found your channel and thrilled to have done so. Excellent tutorial, thank you. I like your mantra "change the way…etc." and will take that as part of my photography toolkit.

  46. Got my first camera 50 years ago, always had one ever since then.

    You add a humble philosophy to your photography which makes me return to your videos over and over again. Meaning, I am very fond of your attitude.

  47. I've been listening to Mike talk about "seeing the picture" for awhile now, and while I fully understood the lesson, I'm now able to apply it. One mentor I had used to ask me, "are you making photographs like an artist or like a tourist?"

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