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How Less Can be More When Composing Photos

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You may have heard the expression “Less is more” before. It’s a term often used in various situations and can also apply to the world of photography composition.

A problem many photographers have is that they like to cram as much into the frame as they possibly can because it just seems to be the natural thing to do.

Why show a couple of people or objects in your composition when you can show half a dozen?

In some instances this is the right thing to do when composing photos. For example, a once-in-a-lifetime trip with several friends or family members warrants everybody’s face in the shot. However, in many cases a photo with less in it will actually be more powerful and say a lot more to the viewer. If there are too many elements in the shot the viewer can be easily distracted.

The Key to Less is More in Photography

The key to being successful with this train of thought of how less can be more in photography composition is to know exactly when to implement it and the only way you can really do this is by gaining experience and thinking about what you want the shot to represent and say.

For example, take a look at the photos below. Notice how little there is within each image but how they still make a big impact.

Less is More When Composing Photos
Photo by Sandeep Somasekharan and Mylla

Imagine how cluttered the photo of the vine growing on the fence would be if the background was in focus and/or more of the fence was shown.It would have created too many distractions for the viewer and taken attention away from the vine.

Also, notice how in the photo of the Coca Cola can that the photographer cropped some of the can out of the frame. This is great example of how less can be more in photography because the viewers can fill in the missing pieces of a subject.

A Coca Cola can is easily recognizable and it’s unnecessary to show the whole can. This shot has a more powerful impact composing the photo in this way.

Think Before You Shoot

You should always have something specific in mind to focus the viewer’s attention on within a photograph.

Before you ever press the shutter button, you should study the scene and decide what it is you want to portray within your photo composition.

After studying the scene you should then decide if it would be better if something was left out of it. Perhaps if something or somebody was omitted, the photo would draw the viewers’ eyes on what you intended them to focus on. This creates better photography composition.

In some cases you just won’t have an option when it comes to subtracting from the scene. It is what it is and you either take the shot or pass on it.

But in many other cases you may be able to place subjects and objects into positions that are more effective. You will also have the opportunity to move yourself, which in turn changes the camera angle and position. This allows you to move things or shadows out of the way, especially if they’re cluttering up the shot.

Below are two more good examples of how less can be more in photography.

Notice how in the photo on the left the photographer omitted the person from the knee up. When you think about it you really don’t need to see any more of the person. This composition makes more of an impact because our imagination fills in the blanks. The same thing goes with the photo on the right. Do you know what it is? When most people look at this photo, they study it for a few minutes trying to figure out what type of liquid is coming out of that spiral glass. Is it coffee, syrup, chocolate or what? This photo only has three elements in it – the spiral glass, the droplet and what seems to be a cup below, however its very interesting to look at because of how the photo was composed! By the way the liquid is coffee.

less is more in photography composition sample 2
Photos by ????? and CoffeeGeek

By keeping certain photographs simple and just getting right to the heart of the scene and the story you’re trying to tell you’ll be able to create a more interesting image.

It’s a good idea to concentrate on things such shape, expression, form and gesture. The viewers will be able to see the obvious and can then let their imaginations take over to fill in the deliberate empty spaces.

This will make your photos more mysterious and open to interpretation, much like a song. Don’t fall into the trap that many other photographers do by including too many elements in the composition that distract the viewer.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how less can be more when composing photos. Leave a comment below sharing your opinion on this technique and situations in which less was more in your shots.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Photography Links That Will Rock Your World

    March 15, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    […] How Less Can be More in Photography Composition – a concise tutorial that discusses some of the finer points of photography composition.  This brief read will leave the viewer with a renewed view of the old expression “less is more”. […]

  2. […] How Less Can be More in Photography Composition – a concise tutorial that discusses some of the finer points of photography composition.  This brief read will leave the viewer with a renewed view of the old expression “less is more”. […]

  3. Imaging | Pearltrees

    March 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    […] How Less Can be More in Photography | FreeDigitalPhotographyTutorials.com For example, take a look at the photos below. […]

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