Defining Simplicity With Composition Techniques

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You’ll often hear people using the term simplicity or simple or even clean when they talk about composition, but what does that mean exactly?

The best way to explain it is to refer to it as uncluttered. If you take a portrait of someone they may look beautiful and your focus on them might be perfect, but if the rest of the photo frame is filled with furniture, trees, other people, or whatever flotsam you can imagine, it’s going to distract – and detract – from the main subject.

In this photo of my daughter, I had four options. While she was playing in this puddle I could have taken the photo from one of four sides. Three angles would have put cars (parked cars, I’m not a crazy mom), some raggedy bushes, or a line of buildings in the background. The angle that I chose had nothing but empty space behind her. Because of this, when you look at the photo your eyes know where to go instead of traveling busily all over the shot.

Photo credit: Sherry Osborne

Photo credit: Sherry Osborne

The same can be said for this beautiful image of two people riding horseback on a beach. Had the photographer been on the opposite side there likely would have been something in the background. In this shot though there’s nothing but the horses and the horizon and it’s a gorgeous, utterly simple photo.

Photo credit: Mike Baird

Photo credit: Mike Baird

If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t really escape your background you can still create a simple composition by using a lens that allows you to open your aperture up nicely. Doing this keeps your main subject in sharp focus while blurring the rest.

For example, in this photo I wanted to obviously draw attention to the fact that a snail was dangling precariously from a very flimsy plant. If the background – which contains a lot of tall grass and other plants – was in sharp focus it would have diminished the impact. However, by opening up my aperture I was able to soften the grass and background “noise” and focus only on the part I wanted.

Photo credit: Sherry Osborne

Photo credit: Sherry Osborne

(For more details on what aperture is all about, check out my post about it!)

Hopefully these tips will help you out with our current photo challenge! If you need some other guidelines, check out my sister site, Beyond Megapixels which also has a nice Simplicity post up.

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