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Keep it Simple

First of all, let me apologize to the Tribe for a long break from the blog. I’m currently completing a doctorate, and studies have taken up all my time. I will do my best to regularly write for the blog.

As we grow in our skills as photographers, it’s easy to find ourselves feeling like there should be more to what we can do.

When doing work for Canon PhotoYou,  Readers Digest’s photography magazine, for example, I set out on my first assignment thinking I had to do something different for the story: that my compositions had to include something more than what I usually know how to do . But as I actually began shooting, I realized something. The skills of composition that allow you to create a well-designed image aren’t complicated.

I realized that keeping a composition simple was inevitably what made it work.

This week’s module is about simplicity in composition. By keeping it simple, you keep the composition clean.

How do you keep it simple?

Find an uncluttered background.

Portrait by Aloha Lavina in Bhutan Bhutanese girl tego Punakha travel portraiture travel portrait copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

I could have taken a frontal shot, but this profile works better because the background is uncluttered.

Moving around the subject is one of the best things you can do while shooting. You’re not going to run out of film, right? Take shots from different angles to discover what makes the best, most uncluttered background for your subject.

Pay attention to colors in the foreground, subject, and background, and create harmony.

Moving around also gives you somewhat different color palettes to choose from. Complementary colors are the most attractive, such as blue and yellow. (Although these colors don’t have to be exact, they can be approximately in that hue.)

Phobjikha girl Bhutan Bhutanese girl night portrait high ISO copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

This handheld shot at high ISO was composed with the blue light in the background balancing the slab of yellowish stone in the foreground.

Often simple lines help your compo.

Pay attention to the lines in the composition. Lines lead the eye in often very graceful ways, and sometimes crossing lines also give a tension to the image, pulling the eye in different directions, but in a way that makes the viewer think.

river Punakha Bhutan Bhutanese landscape copyright Aloha Lavina

The S curve. Grace, personified.

Go back to basics of design.

Don’t forget your basics of design we have talked about in a previous module called “What’s in the Frame.”There is no substitute for good design in an image.

Dochula Pass Bhutan monochrome landscape layered landscape black and white clouds Himalayas copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

My most favorite image of Bhutan is this layered yet simple design of the Himalayan range.

It’s how you see that makes the image, not content.

Finally, one last tip: it’s your inner vision that really counts in image making. Things that seem mundane can actually make great images, memorable images. Interpreting the image from the elements you see in the physical world is the act of creating the photograph. Ask yourself, what are you trying to show or say with the image? This thoughtfulness separates the snapshot from the photograph.

iris flower purple Paro Bhutan foliage nature copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

A lonely iris in Paro, Bhutan.

If you’re still game, let’s make some images this week, paying attention to the compositional tips above. Post your best image in our Facebook page, and let’s get this show back on track!

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

2 Responses to “Keep it Simple”

  1. Your blog is really helpful. Continue your work as you inspired us.

  2. Thanks, Cheryl! Have a great 2013. May the light always be good wherever you are.

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