When shooting an image, you will often find that keeping the composition as simple as possible results in a stronger and more appealing photo.
Simpler compositions are easier to process visually because the simplicity makes the subject of the image clear to the viewer. There are no distractions.
Simplifying a composition means eliminating anything in it that isn’t necessary. You will create a stronger image if you include only the elements that are needed and remove everything else.
Eliminate extraneous elements. Remove distractions. Keep the background simple.
Of all the compositional skills that work to help us create better images, it seems that simplification is possibly the hardest to put into practice. I think that’s because our eyes see everything. With that, we’ve learned to focus on the subject and ignore everything around it.
But to shoot compositions that are simplistic, we have to practice seeing what’s around our subject and then decide what to take out. We need to learn to recognize what we don’t need in our photo.
Here are some tips for creating simple and more powerful compositions.
Eliminate the Distractions
Make it a habit of looking over the entire viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Quickly peruse the scene within the viewfinder, keeping an eye out for any extraneous elements that might be intruding into the scene.
If you find there’s something that doesn’t belong, recompose, change your camera angle, get closer or zoom in to remove it from the image.
In the photos below, you can see how much better the image becomes when the distracting elements are eliminated.
Reduce the Number of Elements in Your Image
My first photography teacher was very adamant about this. The strength and impact of a photo is inversely related to the number of elements it contains.
With that in mind, evaluate each and every element within the frame of your viewfinder and make sure that each adds something to the image. Keep as few elements as possible.
Use Depth of Field to Manage Busy Backgrounds
A shallow depth of field can be used to throw the background out of focus while keeping the main subject of the image crisp and in focus. This can eliminate the distraction of a busy, cluttered background and draw attention to your main subject.
There are a several ways to control depth of field.
- You can use the aperture setting. The larger the aperture opening (and the smaller the f-number), the shorter the depth of field. On a DSLR, shooting in Aperture Priority mode allows you to control the aperture setting while the camera controls the other settings to get correct exposure. On a compact camera, Portrait mode typically gives this same effect.
- Focusing distance also affects the depth of field. A shorter focusing distance results in a more shallow depth of field.
- The focal length of your lens influences the depth of field. The longer the focal length (or the more you are zoomed in), the more shallow the depth of field.
Finally, Simplify Colors too
I love lots of strong colors.
But sometimes a rainbow of bright and vibrant colors can be distracting. Too many colors can take attention away from your subject.
Avoid surrounding your subject with a lot of colors and, instead, opt for a simpler color palette.