I embrace simplicity in my images. For the most part, I enjoy simple frames that are free from clutter and what I think are distractions. There are many photographers, especially documentary photographers, that infuse themselves beautifully within a scene capturing every little detail as a means to help tell a story. My style is much simpler than that. However, is my environment free from clutter or what I view as possible distractions? Absolutely not! There are a few techniques I use which help me create simplicity within my images. Here are those tips:
1. Shoot from above
Shooting from above, or bird’s eye view, is one of the easiest ways a photographer can simplify the frame. Top-down images can exclude a lot of external environment and can help isolate a detail or moment. The closer you are to your subject, the less context in the frame and the less potential for distractions.
2. Fill the frame
Filling the frame is similar to shooting from above. However, this concept is not about the angle in which you capture your subject; rather it's about moving close to and photographing only your subject. You want to fill your camera frame with only the intended subject. In these types of images, the background and environment are often excluded from the image. This is a beautiful way in which a photographer can isolate a single details within an image or create a stunning simple portrait.
3. Pull your subject away from a background
The closer your subject is to a background, the more in focus your background will be, especially if you are not shooting at a wide aperture. Pulling your subject away from a background helps the details in a background blur more. This helps isolate your subject when focus is set to him or her and simplifies the frame.
4. Shoot with a wide aperture or freelens
For those who have a solid understanding of aperture and depth of field this point probably goes without saying; anytime a photographer chooses to use a large aperture the smaller the plane of focus. Images taken with a large aperture (2.8 or lower) will have more blur, which simplifies an image, as humans tend to ignore areas within an image that are not in focus. Images that are captured with a small aperture (f4 or higher) are likely to have more in focus within the frame, which often results in less simplicity.
When you freelens an image, there is a tiny slice of focus. This is also another good way in which to blur out potential background distractions and simplify a frame.
5. Use an object or creative effect to block a distraction
Composing your image in a way that blocks distractions is a fun exercise in observation and creativity. When composing your image, look around your scene to determine if there are elements you can use to hide potential distractions or use in a way that simplifies the frame.
In the image below, to the right of the frame, is my daughter’s closet. Her clothes and toys were visible in the frame until I used the bokeh from a handheld chandelier lampshade to cover those distractions.
6. Don’t be afraid to use post processing tools
Post-processing is powerful and can help a photographer execute their vision for an image. It's a good idea to become comfortable with the tools in image processing programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. The clone stamp tool is one of my favourite post-processing tools. This tool can help me eliminate potential distractions and simplify my image.
The image on the left is straight out of the camera. I didn’t love the tree on the left of my frame, as I found it pulled my eye away from my subject. So I decided to clone it out. This tweak resulted in a simpler image, in my opinion, with less distraction.
If simplicity is your style I highly recommend the above suggestions in order to eliminate possible distractions in your scenes. Give them a try! I’m certain you’ll find a favourite!