Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Embracing Simplicity


There is a photographic concept known as Simplicity of Purpose that I beleive is the heart and soul of what makes a great photograph. What it means is this: Everything in the photo is there for a reason with nothing being there that distracts from the intended story. In other words, keep your composition simple.

A painter starts with a blank canvas and adds the elements he desires to create the composition. A photographer on the other hand starts with a full visual canvas and must remove all the distracting elements so that only what is important is captured. This may be one of the most difficult things for a novice photographer to grasp. It sounds simple enough, but executing the technique requires the ability and experience to see beyond what is obvious, to comprehend visually what is necessary to create the image story.


Keeping your composition simple does not mean it lacks for a measure of complexity. Even a simple composition can be quite complex. What matters is that all of the corresponding complexity works together with no element(s) working against what you are trying to accomplish. The best compositions are the simplest ones. Part of your thought process when photographing must be to think in terms of simplifying your composition. There are simple ways of doing this.

One of the most effective ways is to use a zoom or telephoto lense. This kind of lense helps to isolate your main subject and also improves what is called depth of field...where the subject is in focus but the background is out of focus. A blurred background helps to simply your composition by eliminating distractions.

Try not to fixate on your subject to the point you are unaware of your surroundings. Always take notice of what is behind, and to either side and above. Situational awareness of whats happening within your field of view is a key mental process that is developed over time. By fixating on the subject and ignoring the surroundings, it is easy to not see distracting elements.


Placing your subject in front of a dark or light background is a great way to simplify your image. This can be done several ways including changing the angle of the shot or simply moving a step or two to one side. Again this is part of being aware of your surroundings approach to taking photos.

Use leading lines to take the viewer into the image. By itself, this technique will visually help to eliminate elements you may not be able to easily bypass in your composition.


On a more advanced note, when photographing a model an effective way to bring attention to your subject is to use a speedlight(s). By using a fast shutter that still syncs with your flash you can darken the background, and by using a more open aperture, you can use the light off the flash to highlight your subject.

Three words resound in my mind no matter what I am photographing; simplify, simplify, simplify. It is a vital and effect approach to creating amazing images that stand apart from the ordinary.





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