When you are composing a photograph, have you ever wondered what elements to include and what to leave out? Varina and I think as much about the areas we don’t want to include as we do about the most important elements in the image. Identifying elements that we want to leave out is an incredibly helpful approach to composition. It helps us simplify our compositions and draws the viewer’s attention to the subject matter or point of interest in the photograph.
Take a look at the photograph of the Hoh rainforest above. As I composed this image, I considered each element in the scene. Which elements were important to the image I was trying to create and which were distracting or unnecessary?
My first shot showed bright overexposure in the sky – something I wanted to avoid at all cost. The trees on the left and right side of the frame were distracting as well. When I took my second shot, I switched to a zoom lens and eliminated the elements I wanted to avoid. This shot felt a bit too cramped, and failed to capture the grandeur of the forest surround the old tree stump. In the end, I moved the camera and took a wide-angle horizontal shot. This set-up allowed me to include the nearby trees but avoid the large foreground trees and the sky.
Sometimes what you include and what you don’t include in your photography is selected by the feeling you want create in your viewer.
By including the small figure of Varina crossing the stream in the shot on the left, I created a sense of adventure for viewers. This shot sells quite well as a stock photograph. But what if I wanted a photography that sells as a fine art shot? In this case, I would use the image on the right that is devoid of any human activity. The image on the right gives the viewer a feeling of being in the wilderness.
Next time you are out in the field, ask yourself this question: Which of the elements in the scene should I avoid including in my photograph?