“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” - Frederic Chopin
I'm beating the minimalism drum again. One thing many high impact images have in common is simple composition. In high impact visual story telling "less is more" seems to be the golden ticket. It's not a new concept but it's not always easy to execute. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up that might help you move your images towards greater simplicity.
DETERMINE WHAT THE VISUAL STORY IS
In it’s most basic sense this can be described as a feeling. In the field this means being aware of what moved you to pick the camera up in the first place. What do you feel when you look at the scene and what do you hope others will feel when they look at your image of it. In the image above I wanted the sense of serenity and peace I felt to come through.
SELECT THE LEAD TO TELL THE STORY
What is the detail or subject here that conveys that feeling and tells the story best? Find the lead and compose the image so that it is central (not necessarily centered - but most important) In my image above the story of a peaceful sunrise is told by the lead - the smooth water and the smooth blend of colour in the sky. It is the prominent feature.
HIGHLIGHT THE LEAD
There are several ways to do that both in the field and in post processing… here are a few that I use.
Crop - sometimes it's not always clear what that main focus is when you are out in the field but you instinctively know there is something and you may only have a fleeting moment to capture it. Go ahead and take the shot and then don't be afraid to use your crop tools later in post to help highlight it. Many times I end up cropping down to a much smaller final image in order to simplify it and to place the lead that tells the story in a spot of focus.
Give Space - let the lead of your image stand on it's own with a bit of space around it. In the field try moving around until you can isolate the subject.
Selectively Blur/ Sharpen - Sometimes it is impossible to give the lead space, so in that case I try to give it importance and make it stand out in other ways. This can be done by selectively blurring everything else, giving slightly increased detail to the lead (through HDR or sharpening).
Keep Away from the Edges - a small detail on the edge of an image can draw the eye away so I am often careful to either crop unwanted things out (like the rocky shoreline that was in the bottom left corner of the above image). If it is a small distraction use the clone or healing brush in post to remove it. You can also use vignetting (darkening the edges and/or lightning the centre or subject) to bring the eye away from the edges.
CREATE SUPPORTS FOR THE LEAD
This can be leading lines, framing elements, or objects that help to direct the attention to the lead. Again in the image above, the silhouetted shoreline and rock are the supporting anchors for the colourful sunrise giving a sense of place. With their lack of detail they play a supporting role - more of a frame than a distraction.
Editing out, and boiling down a scene to a minimalist aesthetic takes a bit of extra time both in the field and in post processing. But the results can be an image with a strong lead that really sings the clear visual story and has incredible impact. That’s the prize I’m after and if you are too then hopefully you’ll find these tips useful.
As I work on improving my own images I find inspiration and pick up photo tips from lots of different resources. If you follow me on G+, Facebook or Twitter you may have seen my links to some of these articles already. If you'd like to follow along with my discoveries then be sure to circle, friend or follow me at any of those places.
Here some of the articles I've read recently and photographers work that has helped inform my ideas about simplicity:
Do you have any others to add to this list? Please share them with us in the comments below. Have a simply beautiful weekend my friends.