Make Simplicity Part Of Your Photography

Photography is a subtractive process. Upon looking through your viewfinder you must decide what elements to exclude before pressing the shutter. Distractions, mergers, bright spots, color conflicts, etc., need to be eliminated to direct the viewer’s attention to the intended subject. If the end result is chaotic and confusing, the picture will lack strength and impact. A way to prevent this is to simplify the composition before you shoot.

Many photographers see only the subject and ignore the peripheral areas surrounding it. A tunnel vision phenomenon kicks in where the photographer concentrates solely upon the key element of the composition, and he or she becomes oblivious to what's directly to the side or behind it. Learn to study the entire viewfinder before pressing the shutter.

The point at which this axiom become part of my awareness occurred when I was visiting the Galapagos Islands years ago. Our guide told us we’d see hundreds of sea lions so when we beach the landing craft, do not photograph the first one we see as it will more than likely not be in a great position or in great light. We all nodded our heads OK. Guess what the entire boat load of photographers did as soon as we landed—that’s right—we went nuts photographing our first sea lion. I threw away every one of those images! Rather than becoming a victim of the “First Sea Lion Syndrome,” learn to study the viewfinder and press the shutter only after studying everything the lens sees.



    Great shot and example of such a simple concept that is often hard to execute. Makes such a huge difference later when you see the photo at home vs when you clicked the shutter.

    I used to be one of the “see only the subject” people Russ refers to here with a lot of disappointing results. Then I spent a day with Russ at a class of his and this tip was one of the ideas he emphasized. Has made a huge difference in the results I now get and it will for you, too.

    I love this image, golden eyes balanced with a golden background.
    Do you conduct FSLS seminars? It’s a hard addiction to break, takes considerable time to shake.

    Another simple, subtle, and sensational tip! Thanks, Russ!

    I tend to work on the Sealion basis, take 100 photos, throw away 99. I know that’s not the best way to go about it…

    I am a relatively new photographer on a learning curve at the moment, having bought my first dslr only about 6 weeks ago, so I appreciate your great tips! I have been reading through them all this morning, thank you.

    I have learned to at least take one photo of ‘the first sea lion’. Too many times when photographing wildlife I have waited for that perfect picture and then POOF! The animal is gone.

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