Jun 7, 2011 by


In general, your photos should be as simple as possible. Multiple subjects are fine, but too much to see in a photo can cause the eye to wander, and what you had hoped to convey with your photo may be lost.

Simplicity can be done to the extreme, such as a subject photographed on a single, solid color (Figure 1). In this case, the subject must be interesting, because there is nothing else to draw the eye. There is also the potential for a great deal of negative space (the area of a photo where there is nothing interesting to catch the eye). As such, minding the Rule of Thirds and/or filling the frame with a subject is almost always necessary.

As mentioned before, filling the frame with a subject is another way to cut down on distracting elements to make the photo simpler. For example, if you want to photograph a flower, rather than the flower being one of the objects in the photo, you can either move in close so that the flower takes up much of the image, or even so close that it completely fills it (Figure 2).

One way to create simplicity, regardless of the subject, is to choose the appropriate aperture so you can get the depth of field necessary to blur distracting elements. This applies to both foreground and background elements. (Figure 3)

Simplicity can even be created by removing distracting elements. In nature, branches can be pulled back, sticks removed, and rocks repositioned. With subjects in places like cities, parks, or museums, this can be decidedly more difficult (and/or illegal), and great care and permission should be taken. Photos taken around your home or yard are easiest, as you generally have control over what you can move around to create the photo you desire.

Even in complex landscape shots, a reduced number of focal points can draw the eye’s attention to what is important. Positioning the camera to exclude distracting elements is one way to accomplish this. Another is when there is inherently a lot going on in a photo, to simplify it make one foreground object dominant. This can be done a variety of ways, including selecting an appropriate depth of field, having an interesting object loom large in a bottom corner, or having a single brightly colored object in the foreground (Figure 4). Having a simple background is less important, but there should still be something of note to draw the eye’s attention (a mountain, sailboat, tree, etc.) rather than something monotonous.

Note: make certain to click on each image for full resolution and dimensions.

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