Make your shots simple, your point powerful

What's the point?

What’s the point? – Make your shot focus on something to bring out a distinct point. This photograph is too indistinct in all aspects to make any point

What is the point?

To capture the viewers eye the photograph should pull them visually into the picture. Without a focus, or too many things distracting the eye, the picture will fail. Here we examine how a shot fails to capture attention.

What is the problem?

There are astronomical numbers of pictures posted online. It is said Facebook has over 100 Billion photographs online. Facebook has about a Billion accounts. One hundred photos per person is not too extreme to contemplate. That’s just one photosharing site. Imagine how many pictures there are online in total for the hundreds (thousands?) of sites that share photos. Against that photographic noise, to capture an audience you need to make a significant point.

The point is…

For impact, provide a point of visual interest. Look at the castle above. What is the focal point? The castle is relatively dull, and occupies most of the space. The trees are too indistinct, offering little of interest. If your family were walking beside the castle walls it might be mildly interesting. Even then the people are too indistinct for more than passing interest. There is too much going on, too little of main interest. It’s not obvious what we are supposed to see.

Many snappers try and capture the whole scene. That is what they see and think that the interest they have will come over in the picture. Our eye/mind system does not work like that. When we view a scene we see the main things of interest to us; and our perception filters out the rest. You have to remember that when you show someone the whole scene they will not see the same things of interest as you do. In fact they may see nothing of interest. The photographer has to make it interesting for them.

Three ways to overcome the problem (plus one other)

Capturing the whole scene makes the point of interest too small. Robert capa, a famous street photographer once said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough”. That says it all. Fill the frame with your point of interest.

The second way to overcome this problem is use a different point of view. For example, use a different part of the grounds to get a better view of the castle wall. Look for ways to capture it as the major component of the scene. Get away from the distractions like trees and people in red coats.

Sometimes you need to show the full scene. Landscapes often view a wide scope for example. Sometimes, the small object in the big scene is the whole point. The vastness of it all makes the small subject quite important. In this case you can provide other visual clues. Visual devices like lines of perspective, lead in lines, implied lines or even strong colours picked out all help to highlight the small subject. In other words, use other composition aspects of the scene to pick out the small subject.

A fourth way can direct the viewers eye to the subject in a wide scene. It is not a visual clue, so it’s cheating a bit in a visual sense. Title the picture to make the viewer look closer to get the point. However, it is better to use visual methods if possible.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

2 responses to “Make your shots simple, your point powerful

  1. Damon (Editor)

    Ah yes! For me, keeping it simple is one of the three dimensions of photography. The other two are seeing the light and imparting meaning in your images.
    Thanks for droping by and giving feedback.

  2. Well said … keep it simple! It’s taken me time to learn about composition and I learn more about keeping the “clutter out” every day. Wonderful lesson. @karenann