Photo Tip: Simplify the scene in your photography and composition (updated 2023)
Many photographers try to include everything including the kitchen sink into a photograph and that works for many types of photographs including landscapes, panoramas, skylines and urban environments. In my opinion, a really good photograph should only have a single idea in your photograph that conveys a complete story that hopefully engages us. When we learn to simplify the scene, things get more focused and easy to see and visualize for their message.
Why use this technique to simplify the scene?
When you want to create detailed images of places or experiences in your photography sometimes it is easier to just focus on the details and the most important images that are in front of you. Knowing to filter out the noise and distraction from the background, lets you concentrate on focusing directly on the subject matter and bringing you directly in contact with your subject. The background in a blur creates pleasing elements that don’t have definition and lets your eyes focus directly on the subject matter and what you are trying to portray in your captures.
Bring things into focus
Make sure to put sharp focus on the subject matter or foreground and let the background get fuzzy with shallow depth of field. This will help to draw the focus direct to your subject and the background will just fall off with this easy photo setting and capture.
Experimenting and pairing down
Pairing things down to one subject is not so easy as one would think especially in the context of creating a whole story that fits with your subject and the environment around your subject. A good way to isolate your subject is to move around and experiment with different angles while trying to create an uncluttered yet flattering background that adds a sense of time and place. Try to move around finding an ideal angle while including or excluding background that does not flatter your subject.
Another technique is to use selective focus and depth of field by experimenting with your aperture and blurring the background to varying degrees. On DSLR cameras, widening or setting lower f-stops in aperture priority mode will incur variable blurring to the background based the f stop setting. On certain point and shoot cameras, you may also have this feature with an image icon that represents a focus on a subject with a blurry background.
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Simplifying the scene really makes for simple almost out of focus in the background. Play and experiment with your camera to see how to hone what you see and take out busy backgrounds. A sharp focus on your subject and composition will bring a more harmonious and pleasing effect.
Conclusion to simplifying the scene
This mental process of choosing and working with your subject presents opportunities to experiment and find unique ways of composition and featuring your subject and the backgrounds. Simplifying and focusing on your subject gives a better way of connecting with the subject and creating simple stories that your audience can relate to and enjoy.
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