Monday, October 12, 2009
Simplify Compositions For Better Pictures—10/12/09
Less is more—especially with busy scenes
Wanting to provide the viewer with as much context and information as possible is a noble inspiration. But the fact of the matter is, too much information is overwhelming. That’s what makes the fine balance of a great photograph so difficult to attain; it contains a wealth of information about what’s happening while remaining a simple and easy-to-read composition. Professional photojournalists are great at this, and when you’ve got experience under your belt you will be too. But until then, there’s a simple step you can take to make your images consistently better: simplify.
Simplifying the composition is a great way to make an image that a viewer will want to look at. Instead of a feeling of overwhelming chaos, the viewer’s eye will be lead simply and effectively to the isolated key elements in a frame. That creates a more pleasant viewer experience, which more often than not translates into their saying, “Hey, what a great photograph!”
One great way to simplify a composition is to zoom in and isolate key details. This doesn’t necessarily entail extreme close-ups or macro details, but rather the key pieces that are most important to tell the story simply and effectively. (Or if there’s no “story” to tell, to simply create the most pleasing composition.) Choose the essential pieces from the overall scene and create a graphically simpler composition. If this doesn’t sufficiently say all you want it to, continue making simple pictures and create a photo essay. A series of a few great pictures that tell a story will always be preferred to one chaotic image that meets that technical need but that isn’t appealing to look at.
If you’re reading this after you’ve taken a picture that’s got too much going on, you can always crop your photo into a simplified composition. Whether you eliminate the extraneous info from the edges of the frame or crop way in to create what amounts to a brand-new image, cropping is the after-exposure way of accomplishing what practiced photographers do in camera.
For those instances when you just can’t seem to recompose correctly by zooming in (with lenses or feet), consider changing your vantage point. Raising the camera by standing on a step or lowering yourself nearer to the ground are great ways to dramatically change the background behind your subject—which can work miracles to simplify a scene. Rather than a busy background that distracts the viewer, the simple background of blue sky or green grass that so often occurs with a change of vantage point is a wonderful way to set off your subject, simplify your composition and create a picture that viewers are bound to prefer.