21 Stanley Kubrick Photography Composition Lessons

Some personal lessons I’ve learned while studying Stanley Kubrick’s early photography collection:

1. Film noir:

Dramatic high contrast light, leading lines, and subjects walking a certain direction:

2. Shooting head-on

Multiple subjects, shot head-on, with a triangle composition:

3. Shooting New York City Subway

Handheld, at 1/8th of a second!

4. Two subjects

Two subjects, dynamic hand gestures and body gestures, and an engaging perspective:

5. Three subjects, depth, and triangle composition:

6. Intimate moment between two subjects

Love the heads touching, the bar in the foreground, and the ‘cherry on top‘ of the man’s hand and cigarette!

7. Horizontal vs vertical

Twin brothers: one sleeping in bed (horizontal), and the other standing vertically. Love the brother in the background, with his hand gestures making a triangle with his elbows:

8. Depth

Photographer on far left (blocking technique), and subject in center and one subject on the right (with his legs in a “V”/triangle shape).


9. Placement of 5 subjects

Love how 3D this photo looks, with the depth of the photograph, and also all the subjects looking upwards. A very interesting image:

10. Shooting in the rain

How epic it looks, when shooting bright lights at night, with water and rain in the road:

11. Kubrick in action

Note how he makes these epic mirror shots:

12. Group photos

Look at the intimacy of all these kids; their hand-gestures, and body language. And the simple background with the graffiti:

13. Ambitious and dynamic flash compositions

Very much like Weegee, see how dynamic these flash photos are, with all the multiple subjects, and the blocking of all the visual elements:

Another example:

14. Curve composition and flash

Even when shooting with a flash, try to make a curve composition, shooting from behind some people (seeing some photos with the back of people’s heads, and some photos where you can see their faces):

15. Minimalism, shot from a low angle

Simple lines of the background, and a clear separation (figure to ground) of the black gun against the white sky:

16. Dynamism and movement

The joy and dynamism and movement of the carnival bobsled ride:

17. Intimate moment between brother and sister

Shot from a low angle, accentuating the curve on top of the frame. Interesting composition, especially when you shoot with a “waist-level finder” on a Rolleiflex or Hasselblad:

18. Three subjects, and depth

Focusing on the middle subject, and having a subject on the far left blocking:

19. Surreal flash photographs shot from a low angle

This is a photograph that I find even more surreal than the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson:

The woman’s left eye overlapped with the man’s left glasses, and the face of the man in the painting, and the man in the far left with the cigarette:

Love this photo, with the men and their large “Graflex” cameras in the past:

20. Kids boxing

Not wanting to get punched in the face (while they’re punching the other):

Reminds me of my ‘Gallo Boxing‘ series with the kid and the boxing gloves:

21. Mirror selfie

Have a subject in the far right block, and get yourself in the photo — and your selfie in the center:

Reminds me of my picture with Cindy:

Selfie with Cindy in Saigon hotel with lipstick kiss in mirror. 2017

Selfie with Cindy in mirror with flash. Marseille, 2017
Selfie with Cindy in mirror with flash. Marseille, 2017, shot on Program mode, Ricoh gr ii
Selfie with Cindy in mirror, marseille
Selfie with Cindy in mirror, marseille

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Stanley Kubrick: Master Photographer and Film-Maker

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