Simplicity is a great tool for good composition, while it’s easy to imagine it’s also difficult to master. A photograph will often tell just one story which makes finding a sole subject so important. Everything else will just draw attention away from your subject; you want to simplify it, bringing the focus to your subject.
One subject, zoomed in to eliminate distractions
Simplifying your photography is a bit deceiving which makes it pretty hard to do. While your mind automatically picks out the subject the camera will capture everything, including the distractions if you allow it.
Putting too much in your composition is like over packing your bag, or having a cluttered room, it’s distracting. Distracting the viewer from your subject is not something you want to do so strip the capture down to the bare essentials and leave the distractions out.
Sometimes when admiring a beautiful scene it’s tempting to include too much. Think of what the subject is then try to eliminate everything else. It easier to tell the story and allow the viewer to understand that story if it’s simple.
Methods for simplifying your composition can be things such as brightly lit subjects against a muted background, or using a silhouette against a bright background.
Brightly lit subject against dark background
Dark subject against bright background
You can use subjects such as textures, patterns and silhouettes. One can also use a selective focus with a wide aperture which will draw the focus on the subject by blurring out the distractions.
Most times when shooting a landscape I’ll use three focal lengths, wide, normal and telephoto and select a favorite later. Many times I’ve preferred the telephoto shot as it provided more isolation and simplified the photograph.
Landscape with a 400mm focal length
The main take away from this is that some of the best photography out there is often just a simple composition. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated and most times being complicated doesn’t work. Don’t only just get rid of the junk in your image, try to also limit the wonderful stuff you may want to include. Remember your subject is the main focus for the viewer to be drawn to.
Use the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) and remember a telephoto lens and or a large aperture can be your best friend when simplifying your photograph.
Telephoto lens with a large aperture blurring out the background