Simplifying is the key to better pictures

While we like to always have a clean uncluttered background in our pictures, sometimes all we can do is use the longest focal length lens we have. At times, that isn’t enough to minimize the distractions. Then it’s time to see if we can isolate by moving around. Ideally we want a vantage point where our subject is lit but not our background.

As photographers we have to simplify because as powerful as photoshop is, we can’t always eliminate in post production

So in our world, our canvas has to be protected from erroneous objects that distract from our subjects.

But before we can decide what is distracting, we have to  be absolutely clear about what’s our primary subject is.

Faces are important–Waiting for the right moment when his face is visible made all the difference in the world.Don’t you agree? Compare this to the picture below when I first happened on the scene.
When I first arrived. Of course, i was excited and started shooting but I was also aware of the composition and decided it could be stronger. Both pictures were shot full frame no cropping.

If it’s a portrait, then it’s pretty obvious. How about when you’re just walking around and stumble onto something?

In a portrait situation, you are in total control. From your choice of lens, the styling, your location and especially your lighting. The lighting is your brush which dictates where the highlights and shadows go and therefore what you want to emphasize or minimize.

In that instance, you probably have to rely on your gut and ask what caught the attention of your eye?

Was it the way the light struck something in the scene?

Or was it a person doing something unusual?

Only by asking yourself those questions can you work the scene to get the best picture possible.

Hopefully whatever caught your eye will allow you time to work the scene by walking around, zooming in with your legs or attach a different lens.

In the end, you really do want to simplify your scene to show your viewers why you took the picture, so simplify your scene to communicate your message.

Mouse over the image to see what the picture looked like out of the camera. The color of the graffiti and the tattoos were distracting.

If you’re setting up a portrait, it’s no different. Keep in mind the more of the body you include in the picture, the smaller the  face becomes, so now more distractions start to creep in.

This is Stephanie again after she changed into a long sleeved dress. Notice how your attention goes to her face. One Softbox was used to light Stephanie inside this abandoned building. ISO50 Canon 5D Mark 2 1/60 f2.8 50mm lens

Exposed skin on other parts of the body can be a distraction  especially if we want our viewers to focus on a face.

That is not to say that tattoos on exposed forearms and other parts of the body are not good for pictures.

It just depends on the reason of the portrait.

Obviously if I’m doing a portrait of a tattoo artist, a salty sailor or a tough marine then I would want to photograph the person shirtless or with as much skin exposed as possible all the while keeping in mind the nature of the tattoo’s artwork.

On the other hand if I were photographing a person who is modeling a glamorous designer gown, then a tattoo sleeve becomes a major no-no especially if it can’t be hidden by a matching garment, shawl, sweater or wrap.

If i had any advice for wannabe models, it’s probably this: I wouldn’t get any tattoos in places which are difficult to hide.

Why limit yourself when you’re a model?

Peter Phun Photography

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