Tighten Up Your Compositions

Reduce your compositions to their basics to avoid chaos in your images

While growing up, there was a very popular dance song called “Tighten Up.” A line from it is, “Everything will be outta sight, come on and tighten it up.” These lyrics can make you a better photographer! How, you ask? The answer is actually quite simple. Literally, it’s simple. The word simple comes from the Latin, simplus. Its English translation means “plain, basic, uncomplicated in form or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.”

When it comes to photography, simplicity is my approach. I don’t make it complicated, especially when it relates to composition. The more cluttered the image, the harder it is for the viewer to discern the subject from the chaos. Simply stated, reduce the composition to its basics and the viewer can comprehend why the shutter was pressed. Include too much and the result is discord.

So how does one go about simplifying composition? The lines I quoted from the song answer this question: “Everything will be outta sight, come on and tighten it up.” All clutter witnessed in the viewfinder needs to be placed outta sight. One way to accomplish this is to move closer to the subject. Peripheral disarray will be eliminated. Another is the photographer adjusts his or her shooting angle so ugly distractions can be covered by aesthetically pleasing objects. A third option, if possible, is to move the subject to produce a better angle. A fourth option goes hand in hand with the title of the song. Rather than move yourself or the subject, use the power of your zoom and tighten up the composition. The above sounds simple, so why then are there still so many photos that contain clutter?

When photographers compose an image, they have to decide what the most important elements are that stand before them. The decision should be governed by what constitutes the prime subject seen through the lens. For everything to fall into place, there should be a concrete relationship between the key subject and its background. If there’s little or no harmony, as much of it as possible should be excluded, so zoom in to crop the photo more tightly. Fill as much picture space with the subject as the lens allows. Change to a longer lens if necessary.

To solidly apply the above concepts to help you see background distractions, I implore you to work with your camera on a tripod. It provides a means to study the information in the viewfinder much more precisely and methodically. Take your eye away from the camera, count to 10 and look through the viewfinder again. This time, don’t immediately cast your eye in the direction of the main subject. Intently study the edges, top and bottom of the frame. I guarantee you’ll see some sort of distraction sticking in from one of these areas that you didn’t notice before you looked away. The more often you do this in conjunction with using the capability of your zoom to tighten up, the more quickly you’ll be on the road to creating award-winning pictures.

To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is All About The Light and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.