Composing With Secondary Subjects

There’s something I particularly like in this composition tutorial from Matt Dutile at the DPS blog. While he touches on the rule of thirds and the importance of white space—good points, no doubt, but fairly well covered—it’s the advice about adding a secondary point of interest that I think is so interesting and important, and something you don’t often hear about. When I’m framing a photograph, one of the things I’m most concerned with is simplification—eliminating every last bit of distraction that could possibly draw a viewer’s eye away from the center of interest. That’s not a bad policy, but in terms of compositional basics, it’s just step one. Once you’ve mastered that, you can take your photographs to a new level by adding additional points of interest. This works so well because it’s so hard to do well. It’s much easier to add a secondary point of interest that causes confusion than it is to add one that further simplifies the composition and reinforces the message. Which is why when it does work, it’s so darn powerful. I think of one photo in particular when it comes to secondary (and tertiary) points of interest in a photograph: Sam Abell’s iconic image of cowboys wrangling calves on the open range. You can get an idea of just how highly it’s regarded, and see it for yourself, via National Geographic’s gallery of the 50 best photographs of all time (linked below). Then be sure to come back to Mr. Dutile’s DPS blog post and get a little more insight on adding secondary points of interest more effectively. It can be a great way to take your compositions to that ever-elusive "next level."
Photo by Matt Dutile

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