What NOT to Photograph

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While considering what kinds of pictures you should set your sights on capturing, you should also take a moment to ponder what photographs you shouldn’t take.

Avoid clutter. It is a proven fact that a tidy, neat, and clean home sells more quickly than a messy, cluttered home. This concept translates to photography as well. A photograph cluttered up with too much going on just allows the eyes to skim over it, without drawing the viewer into the scene. This concept of clutter can also be taken in a literal sense – it’s a pet peeve of mine to see photographs of people, or pets, or what have you, with the room that they’re sitting in all cluttered up with unfolded laundry, unmade beds, stacks of papers, or piles of dishes.

Resist vague subjects, or too-busy backgrounds. Take the photograph above, for example. Can you identify what the subject matter is supposed to be? Try to define what your subject is before you take the shot – otherwise, you’ll just end up with a snapshot of undefined randomness.

Avoid prohibited subjects. It goes without saying, if you find yourself with camera in hand but faced with a prohibitive rule against photography, you must abide by it. Many museums insist that photographs not be taken of their exhibits or artifacts. Photography at concerts can be prohibited, as well. And, to my own personal sorrow, one cannot photograph the wonders of Kartchner Caverns, here in Arizona. What I wouldn’t give to be permitted to photograph the caverns!

Be visually brief. I came across that phrase in this article on PhotoFocus, and I thought it was excellent. Just as professional writers are encouraged to make their point in fewer words, so too should photographers endeavor to capture the intent and emotion of their image as simply as possible. There is power in simplicity, and a skilled photographer has the ability to inspire with visual brevity.

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Canon HV20 on a Velbon tripod” by Studiospecialplace on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Cluttered city” by Boliyou on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “ASU Art Museum” by Kevin Dooley on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Seneca lake” by Eflon on Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • http://spill-beans.blogspot.com jnana

    This was really useful! Thanks :)

  • Draws With Light

    I can understand Kartchner Caverns not allowing flash photography; but, I can't understand the prohibition against all phoyography. If there's enough light for a natural lighting picure, even at a higher ISO, it should be allowed, given the ability to hand-hold cameras/lenses that have image stabilization capabilities.

  • Sharon

    I think most caverns prohibit photography for safety reasons. When you are inside a dark cave and flashes are around you and in your face, it's easy to take a misstep into, low cave ceilings, wall edges or to trip on rough cave paths. There are usually elderly and small children on tours so it becomes a liability issue. The flashes can be a bit disorienting to others.

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