One of the tough choices when peering into the viewfinder is deciding how much of the scene we see is important.
It’s often overwhelming.
If you stood in front of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls (insert your choice of natural wonder or manmade structure), you’re likely seeing something massive.
Our eyes function like a camera but we have a brain attached to them.
The camera requires “us” to decide, to choose.
If we can’t decide, we end up sticking a wide angle lens and taking everything in.
Then when we print the image the size of a 5 x 7, we are expectedly disappointed at the loss of impact in our final image.
If you think about how our brain allows us to see details in small areas of the scene from the darkest shady areas to the brightest parts, it really is quite remarkable, isn’t it?
Our eyes are doing Photoshop on the fly.
We can adjust our iris to compensate for the highlight and shadow areas of the scene depending on what we want to see.
The one thing our brain doesn’t do is “crop”.
Our eye sees the scene in its entirety because the focal length of our eyes is about 50 mm.
So, when it comes to zooming in, I’m going to guess that all our brain can do is put up some internal blinders to block out areas which we’re not interested in.
Whether it’s the beautiful solitary flower in a meadow, a shirtless Fabio look-alike on a crowded beach, we somehow are able to block out the unimportant stuff.
Such is the power of our brain.
Not so with the camera.
The operator has to do that part.
Boy, am I long-winded or what? Next time, Peter, just say, “Simplify”
Deciding how much to “capture” doesn’t come naturally.
Some of us have good instincts because we drew or painted as kids so it might seem instinctual or innate.
For the rest of us, if we’re lucky, someone will have to point it out to us in a nice way.
Simplifying or eliminating clutter isn’t enough at times.
When a subject is so far away from the camera that it’s close to infinity, it becomes almost one with the background.
Hold a finger up. Focus on one of your fingers at 2 inches, note how blurry the background is.
Then move it away to arm’s length, maintain your focus. This time note how much sharper the background is.
So, to make your subject stand out from the background, you need to bring it forward of the closest object behind it. This is especially true in situations when the background and your subject are in the same lighting.
So if no concerted effort is made to control the depth-of-field, composing tight will not save your picture either.