My Most Liked Photos, The Making of: Composition


Bonjour, Mesdames et Messieurs. My name is Serge Remelli. I’m right now in Albuquerque
for the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. And I’m going to show you
in this six series episode some of the photos that
I got, how I shot them, how I composed them, and some of them were my most liked photo of all times. So I want to walk you through everything. First of all, in this episode, all we got to do is
look at the composition because that is very important. So, let’s take a look. Bonjour, Mesdames et Messieurs. So, in this first step, first video of the six-part series on
how I got this photography, which is my most-liked
photography of all times, how I photographed them
and how I shoot them, I want to give you a whole
bunch of different tricks, and really go through my process
on the real life example. So, I came here in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta Festival, with the idea of taking photos along with another 1000 photographers and this is some of the photos. I’m going to show you how I got this, some of them are panoramas,
some of them are composites, some of them are very natural retouching. So, let me explain to you, this video is going to cover more,
actually, what I think is the most important part
of this, is the composition. I came here with my friend, Emeric, who is a time-lapse master expert, which I did his course,
time-lapse masterclass with him. And we came together,
he was doing time-lapse, and I was doing photography. We got up really early the first
day at five in the morning. It took us two hours with
an Uber driver to get there. It was really hard because
the driver was not that good. Anyway, there was a lot of traffic, so we get there like at six, and ye know, it started to be sunrise a little bit. And I started taking some photos, but first I was very disappointed because when I take photography, I am always looking for
a foreground element. And this is how the place looked like. It was crowded with bus, parking lot, thousands of people, two
hundred thousand people is coming for this show
over a one-week period. I was like, how am I going to take a photo because one of the most
important things for me when I want to take a photo, is one, I want to make it a
dramatic photo, that’s for sure. And two, I want to make something that’s going to communicate a message, and the most important thing
when you have a great subject and believe me, ye know,
balloons in the air, seven hundred balloons
is an amazing subject. But then, how do you do it so that ye know, the subject becomes interesting? So, I have a rule about this, and rule number one is having great light. I’ve got to have a great light. That’s why we got up very early. Now, the light was not that great. Rule number two, foreground,
middleground, background. And that was the main
issue because anybody with a good camera, ye know, could just look up and take a photo. This is some of the
regular photo that I got. This one is blurry, and
they are really bad photos. They were like, everybody was
getting them on their iPhone. And I was like, what am I going to do? This is going nowhere, ye know,
yes I can do some retouching like this one, using my preset, but it’s still a very boring photo. You see balloons, you see some balloons on the floor, you see a moon. I was like, why did I come here? I spent quite some money
actually getting here, because it was fully packed,
we couldn’t rent any cars, the whole city was like,
taken over by 250,000 people, and I’m like, what am I going to do? So, ye know, I tried a bit of retouching. Ye know, oh, maybe trying to get the moon with one of
the balloons, ye know. I tried different things, ye know, and I really hated the first day. I just hated, hated the first day. I tried to do some panos, so
that’s of the whole scene, but I was always cutting the foreground, because the foreground
was so ugly, ye know. So I was like cutting above, and cutting above, and cutting above. That’s the pano, ye know. And I’m like, why did I come here, this is not good, so then
I try something else. I said, okay, well maybe I’m going to find some kind of flower,
as a foreground element, just to give something than
just a balloon up in the air. And, eh, bad, bad, bad, it
was just bad, it was just bad. I was so depressed, I was about
to fly back to Los Angeles. And then, then something happened. So, let me first freeze some
of the bad photos that I got. Ye know, I tried different
composition but I was just, I was just not happy about it. I was just not happy about it. Like this, this is one
of the best that I got. I retouched it, ye know, you see the moon, you see the balloons. It’s okay, but you see, like, all these hundreds of
thousands of people down there. It’s actually a little dark. I applied one of my presets on it. I’m like, this is not, this
is not fine art photography. This is like documentary, I
don’t want to do documentary. So, I just started shooting,
ye know, in digital balloons. Ye know, Darth Vader balloon,
Darth Vader and Yoda. So many balloons, I went into the crowd, tried to get some, ye know, inside maybe, or maybe if I go in
and from under balloons or something, I can get something cool. And, I tried that, and
I still didn’t like it. Then, I said, okay, maybe I’m
going to go against the sun and get some kind of composition
with the long shadows. Still very ugly, very
ugly, very ugly, very ugly. So, I was like, okay, well
I just wasted a full day. Ye know, I didn’t sleep
because I couldn’t get to bed. I went to bed, like at
midnight, couldn’t sleep. We had to get up, like at
three thirty, four o’clock, so I had not slept at all, and
I didn’t get one good photo. And I was about to kill myself. But then, something happened. Emeric did a lot of research,
he’s really good at that on the internet, and he found a place. He found like, a school,
which is really far away from where the balloons
are, but the good thing with this school, is,
it’s an amazing view. So, that’s the first photo
that we got from the school. And it’s a great, it’s a whole pass. Let me show you on an overexposed photo, so you can see a little bit
of the view that we had. And, it was like, an amazing view because we had the Rio
Grande, here, that’s with fog. So, we arrive, not only this
time we had a great sunrise, but we had the Rio Grande
as foreground element. It was just like, oh
great, the only problem is the balloons were not up yet. Ye know, we got up so
early, and so what I did is, I have a 70 to 300 with
me, so I’m thinking, okay, I’m going to shoot
this at 300 millimeter. Let’s see what that is, so
that’s ah, I have my 7300, I’d 136 millimeter, and so we
are just basically waiting. So, the balloons started
getting up in the air. Ye know, that’s what you see here. So, I started doing some HGR. The reason why I did HGR is because, like, the sky was kind of crazy. So, I was trying to find the
framing, I was moving around. I was trying to get the fog
as a foreground element, and that amazing sunrise
as a background element, and the balloons, but the
balloons were really far away. I mean, you can see here, if I zoom in. The way here, ye know, starting to get up, you can see some of them. It was the night, it was really
early, it was very early. Ye know, and I was doing HGR. I like to do bracketing,
it just gives me options. Most of the time, I don’t
use it, or I use it in HGR. So anyways, I kept looking
for the right composition. The right composition for me was, ye know, let’s get the fog, look
at this, look at this fog, from the Rio Grande and
let’s get the sunrise. The problem was that the
balloons were not there. It was too early, ye know, and I was afraid that two things would happen. Let me show you all the photos. Look at that framing,
look at that framing. Ye know, amazing fog, great sky. That’s the underexposed
sky but no balloons. The problem is, as the
sun rises, the night sky is going away away, and
the fog is going away. And the balloons are
coming, and I’m like aww. So now I’m going to get, ye know, not such a great sky, not so much fog. But anyway, I think the
force was with us that day because something happened,
it was quite cool actually. I kept on taking photos, either
trying to find a different, I was trying to really zoom in. Look at this one, I’m 144 millimeter. I really have the Rio Grande as a foreground but still no balloons. So, anyway, I’m not going to bore you with all the photos that I took. I’m showing you all the bad photos. So balloons started to come
but they were far away. This photo was not sharp by mistake. So I moved a bit, a little closer and zooming in now, at like
200 millimeter but the balloons are still a little too
far, a little too far. There’s still a lot of fog
though, so I’m happy about that. And I just keep on waiting, I just wait and wait and wait and wait. And balloons, more and more
balloons are coming up, which is cool, and more and
more balloons are coming up. Now, this is the first pano. One thing that I do, I forgot to explain, is when I go through my photos, okay, and if I think the photo has
a potential, I press one, I give it a one, so you
see, it has a rating of one. Now, what I did is, I
also made some panos. So this is the first pano that I made. So, it started from the left. One, two, three, four, five. So when I do a pano, to be able to see it later on in lightroom, I select my pano, and then I right-click, and I go, set color label to red. I put all my panels in red, so right away I can see that this is a pano. Okay, but the balloons
were still to far away. Ye know, but they were coming
closer, so I said, okay, let’s make another pano, so
that’s a pano you can see. I gave it a one, I gave it a red color. That’s a huge pano that I made actually. It’s too big, I couldn’t even stitch it. The sun was getting up,
the sun was getting up, so the clouds were going away, the fog was still there though. And so, we kept on
waiting, waiting, waiting. I was really afraid that the
fog was going to go away. So, let me move a little further in time. Let me move further in
time, and here I am. You see, I gave this photo a two star. Why? So when I see a
photo that I really like. Not that just it has potential. I directly give it a two-star. And so this is something I really liked. I said, ooh, this is nice, this is nice. Ye know, the balloons start coming over. And I look at this, I’m at 251 meters. So I zoomed in even more with my 70 to 300 and I was just trying to
get close to the balloons. And I like that because you get the fog, you get the balloons. I mean, the photo is very, very neutral. Ye know, it’s not really nice. Okay, let me show you what I do. So, when I have a photo that I like, so now finally I’ve got a foreground. Actually, this is a pano, I’m
just realizing this is a pano. You see, one, two, it should
probably work as a pano. I’m going to right-click,
and I’m going to give it one, rating one, oh sorry, rating two. It was already rated two, rating
two, and the color of red. Okay, in this episode, I’m not going to show you how I did the panels. That’s going to be for the next episode. So, on this one, I’m just
going to take this one. So, usually what I do, and
that’s really my workflow, and that’s how I did it,
and speed was relevant. I was trying to put this
photo up on Instagram before all the journalists
with the hastag, hot air show balloon, I forgot what the hash, it was
some kind of hashtag. I wanted to be one of the
first ones to put like, a really iconic, fine art type
of photo of the show, so that the press maybe would buy
the photo, or it would buzz. It kind of worked,
because the photo I posted was my most liked photo
ever, so it did kind of work. And I’ll show you this
through the whole process. So, okay, I like the
framing, the subject is good. We’ve got a good foreground element, ye know, with the trees, with the fog. A middleground is this, the only thing that’s kind of missing is the light. It was actually pretty warm but I shot this with the white
balance on daylight and all the warm is gone,
it looks very neutral, but if you use my signature preset, and I’m actually going to give you some of my signature presets for free, so you can try this,
that’s always what I do. So, I go to my signature preset. In this case, I’m going to go for sun, anything which is sunrise I always use, cos sunrise and sunset
are the same preset. So, I’m gonna use, you see
I got different presets. Sunset basic, sunset linear,
sunset linear circle, sunset linear circle dark,
sunset linear circle light. The way this works, is if
I click on sunset basic, all I get is like a basic reduction. Now, remember our preset
is only a starting point, and if you want to see
how to install preset, just look at my last video, the one I did just before on my YouTube channel. Ye know, I’m going to put
the link and the description, so you can just click on that video and see how to install the preset. So, sunset basic is just a basic preset. Sunset linear is
basically the same preset, except now it’s got linear
filter on top and the bottom. So meaning I have a gradient on top, and it’s a little darker
on top and the bottom, with some color cast sometimes. And then we’ve got sunset linear
circle, check this one out. Now, this one is going to add a big radial circle with some color. It doesn’t do much here,
let’s go directly to, yeah, sunset linear circle dark. So, you don’t see it
there, but it’s there. There is a circle, let me
show you what it looks like. That’s going to add some color. The circle is here, and you
see, what the circle does, is add some color in this case. I’m going to add a little bit
more saturation on this one. It just adds a little bit more sky. Now remember, a preset
is just a starting point. So, usually what I do,
since I think I had to say, that’s another trick
that’s very important. When you take photographs,
try to shoot in manual mode, so that you don’t change your settings from one photo to another. Why? Because now I can spend some
time retouching this one, starting with one of my preset, and actually, this one, this preset, I’m going to give you for free. It’s in the description, if you click on the link below this video. You just, ye know, create and account, it’s free with my website
and you can get the preset. And yeah, you’ll get a video also explaining how to install the preset. Anyways, so, I clicked on the preset. Now, I think I want to make
the photo a little darker. I think it’s a little too yellow, so I’m going to add back some blue. And maybe add a little bit more magenta. Ye know, preset for me,
is only a starting point. Okay, I’m going to click here
to inspect my filter here. Maybe make this filter
a little bit bigger. You see how that filter makes
things a little bit darker? Minus exposure and a little bit of blue. Why, because when I have
a sunset or a sunrise, I like to have, like, going
from blue to orange the sky. Ye know, cos that’s usually how it is, so I like to put more emphasis on this. So, that’s what I did here. Maybe a little too much blue on this one, so I’m just going to turn
it down a little bit. And here is another
gradient, and the purpose of the gradient is just
to close the photo. I’m trying to darken a little bit. I’m going to make it a little more darker in a little bit of the
bottom of the photo, so that people really, ye know, go inside of the Montgolfière. Okay, so that’s good. Next is, I think I’m going to add more contrast on this photo, and maybe, let’s check my black point, by holding, the black point is a little strong. Okay, white point may be, yes,
I want to be at the limit. So, I’m holding the
option key as I do that. And now, it’s starting
to look like something. I think we have too much sky, I want to make this a little pano. So, I’m going to go like
this, and like this. Okay, that’s pretty good. Oh, the horizon’s not straight. We might as well do that in the process. That’s kind of the horizon here. Okay, good, good, good. And I like this photo, I think I might add a little bit more
vibrance and saturation, ‘cos I like crazy drama, or just, ye know, add even more
contrast, lower or not. I still think it’s a little too yellow. Let me see, I’m going to
add a little bit of magenta because I’m crazy about magenta. And I know I’m pushing it, I know, honestly, it was not that warm, but I’m trying to create
an emotional impact. I think there’s too much saturation now. But ah, check this out, I think I got something that I kind of like. Ye know, that kind of photograph is going to do really well on
social media and 500px. Yes, it’s pushing the colors a bit far, I agree, but it’s a free world. If you don’t like it so saturated, there is a slider called saturation and you can just turn
it down, turn it down. This is like a minus saturation now. So, it’s like, less saturated,
which is kind of cool, I still like it too, but
I’m crazy about saturation, so I’m going to add a bit
of vibrance saturation. But you see here, this is a
little, a really good trick. You see, I’m only adding 16
of vibrance and saturation. It’s not a lot, it’s not that much. The reason why it’s so saturated is because it was truly saturated. When you have a row file
that has heat and colors, like you take a photo of
a sunset or a sunrise, and it looks like really
boring, and very neutral, that’s the nature of role files. They have this color, it’s there, it’s just hidden, so when
you put the white balance, like I’m doing now,
that’s why it’s come up. If I would take this photo during the day, with no sun rise there,
I wouldn’t be able to with just, so little white balance and saturation, turn it in these colors. You see, there has to
be some of it present. So, voilà, so I started with a preset I adjusted the preset, and now I’m going to press command c, and I’m going to copy everything that I did, except the crop. Okay, I don’t want the crop because crop is tailor made for every photo. But now I know I got something that I like and because I shot manual, I can just look at this photo, I’m like, oh, is this photo going to work or not. Basically, and that’s the trick, when I’m done with the photo,
I give it a three star. I give it a three star, because I know this one is going to go for,
like a media or something. Okay, now I’ve got this photo, and I’ve got the signature
piece that I use. I tailor made them, I’m just
going to press command v. And that’s going to give
you a good starting point. I’m already good to go,
I’m like happy about this. That’s a keeper, I’m
going to give it a three. So, that is the first thing that I did. Now, some photos required panoramas, some photos require more
advanced retouching, which we’re going to take
up in the next days, because this is a six part video,
so that was the first part. Don’t forget to download your free copy of signature presets, you can buy all my signature presets for 27 dollars. The link is also below the video. Something big is coming, the five-day deal is coming up again, Friday the 13th. And, if you buy it through me, I’m going to throw in and give you all of my signature presets for free, and maybe another bonus surprise. So, that’s going to be on Friday. Wait for my email on Friday. Buy it through me if you
can, that really helps me, and I will give you all my
signature presets for free. It’s amazing, if you don’t know what the five day deal is, it’s basically $2,500 worth of tutorials from some of the best photographers on the planet for $117. You get all this $2,500 from all these experts for just $117. Ten percent goes to charity, we’ve been doing it for several years. It’s super successful,
people are blown away, and this year is going
to be the biggest ever. So, wait for it, this Friday,
wait for my newsletter, click on it, buy it,
you will not regret it. Mesdames et Messieurs, I will see you on Friday the 13th for the continuation of this tips and tricks
on how I got these photos to be the most liked photos of all time.

16 thoughts on “My Most Liked Photos, The Making of: Composition

  1. Serge, I appreciate you talking about your depression about a scene that you thought would be really cool. Ive been there 1000 times. No one ever talks about this part of photography. Glad you stuck with it!

  2. Serge come to Cappadocia Turkey, at this place we have also baloons but they fly between a very strange cappodocian topography.. lovely place..

  3. Little tip for the master: to give your photo a color you can just use the keys 6-9 (with 6 being red; 7 yellow and so on)….. instead of going into the menu.
    I like this kind of vid! Thanks.

  4. who needs your 20 mimute bullshot videos. thats why you have this much wievs. make them 7-8 minutes amd maybe more ppl will check it out. this is the only reason why i stoped watching your videos, they are too long and you talk too much and your words soumd fake without real emotions

  5. Very nice! You got lucky with the balloons as they usually go left to right (north to south) at least they have every time I have been there. Do you remember the name of the school where you shot from.

  6. The photo on your Instagram account that got the most likes from the Balloon Fiesta is one of the best I've seen. It shows a perspective I've never seen from another photographer. Needless to say there will be a mob there with their tripods this weekend (including me). Thanks for sharing the realities of how difficult it to capture a great photo!

  7. I bought your "Signature" presets. Nice but they did not include the "sunset" preset you talk about in the video. Will you share your "sunset" preset link?

  8. Serge, magnifique photo! J'ai hâte de voir les autres vidéos à propos de cette série. Ça me fait penser à une photo que j'ai prise que j'aime beaucoup:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathanfv/35445551724/in/dateposted-public/

    Le principe était similaire, je voulais un point de vue différent des feux d'artifice, un point de vue que la plupart des gens ne pourraient pas obtenir. J'ai trouvé un point élevé à une grande distance à l'avance, et ai espéré que ça marcherait. La prochaine fois, je pense que j'utiliserai des sacs de sable plutôt qu'un trépied.

  9. You got very lucky that day! I live in Albuquerque and have just recently began photography. That day was the only day when the river had fog, and the balloons do not always fly in the same direction every day. Some days they go south west like they did for you, others they go straight west. Awesome photo. I believe your location was St Joesphs?

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