A lot of my Friday Foto Talk posts have been quite long and involved, so much so that I’ve had to split them up into parts, or installments. In keeping with the week’s topic, this one will be as short and simple as I can make it.
Many people recommend keeping your photographs as simple as possible. Pick a strong subject and exclude everything else. It’s good advice, but as usual only as far as it goes. In other words, you won’t be doing a great deal of shooting if you strictly follow that. There’s more out there than just single-subject compositions.
My approach is this:
- I look for cool stuff in places I like to be.
- I try to time it so that I’m out there shooting that cool stuff in great light.
- I frame that stuff in my viewfinder in a way that looks cool (shows it to its best advantage). The only rule I tend to follow when photographing is the rule of thirds, and there are exceptions to that. All else is situation dependent (and thus not a rule).
- Before I press the shutter I zoom (with either the lens or my feet) so as to exclude anything that seems extraneous. Sometimes I zoom in with my feet and zoom out with focal length.
- I shoot.
- If the light is still there, I work the subject some. Most of the time this results in a picture (or three) within the picture, a composition that is narrower than the original. Usually the effect is to simplify the composition.
- Later, behind the computer, I will crop down if I change my mind about the composition. This also simplifies, but at a cost to file size.
A word about cropping. Normally I don’t crop much if at all, but that wasn’t the case when I was less experienced. You have to crop on the computer for awhile before you start cropping in camera; it’s a normal part of learning. And you don’t want to start cropping in camera because some ‘expert’ said you should, then get back in front of the computer and realize you should have included more in the frame. Take your time and let it develop naturally. Instead, just work the subject (see below).
Now the question is this: what compositions end up being “better”, the wider angle more complex ones or the zoomed in simpler ones? It’s one of those loaded questions in photography, the kind you find people answering with way too much certainty. In fact, you have to answer it when you’re rating your shots. But I believe, like much else in photography, that it is purely subjective.
I probably have more keepers that are simple than complex, but that doesn’t mean some of my all time favorite shots aren’t complex. Complex can be awesome! But if you have a strong subject, you should try to get a few shots where it is isolated, where anything around it is so out of focus (or vignetted) that anything outside of the subject is unrecognizable. The subject alone is the picture.
Then go ahead (quickly while the light is good!) and work it so that you get some shots with just a little bit of the subject’s surroundings, whether in soft focus or sharp. And if it seems right, and especially if the light is great, get some shots where a lot of your subject’s surroundings are included. Later you can decide which (if any) you like best.
Keyword all those different compositions, using the same search terms so they will all come up when you’re looking for something. Later on you may have a use for a shot you didn’t particularly like at first. I’ve even sold pictures this way, shots that weren’t on my website, even those that didn’t show up here on the blog.
Ooh darn, I think this may be a bit too long and complex. Oh well…Everybody have a simply fun weekend!