A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Five Tips for Photographs Without Clutter

April 10 2014

by Philip Northeast

Give digital photos  greater impact by reducing distracting objects with five professional photography techniques.

Clutter is unwanted objects, often unnoticed when taking the photograph, that distracts viewers from the subject. Classic examples are trees and poles growing out of people’s heads. Another example of clutter is a scene that is  too busy, creating confusion for the viewer as what is the main subject. 

The pole seems to be part of the girl's head

The pole seems to be part of the girl’s head

 

These are easy and common compositional mistakes as people construct a mental image of the scene ignoring the clutter and distractions. Digital cameras take a very literal view of a scene and they faithfully record clutter just as well as those objects that interest the photographer.

 Lots of poles, rails and even a plant distract attention away from the tractor and the watering booms

Lots of poles, rails and even a plant distract attention away from the tractor and the watering booms

There are a number of compositional techniques available to deal with distractions that editing in Photoshop cannot remove and this clutter is physically impossible or impractical to remove from the scene.

1 – Framing

This is the surrounds of the subject, particularly the edges. While photographers concentrate their attention towards the centre of an image and the subject, it is easy to miss distracting objects at the edges. So pay attention to the edges and position the camera accordingly.

Framing is a powerful composition tool often used with such things arches, doorways, or tree branches to frame the subject. Cropping the image in the digital darkroom is common way of applying the final adjustment for framing but it does mean a smaller image, or one with less resolution.

2 -Telephoto and Zoom Lenses

Choosing the right focal length is a variation of the framing technique. As the focal length of a lens increases, the angle of view narrows. This makes the framing of the scene a consideration when choosing the focal length. This is important in situations where it is difficult to move the camera to achieve the desired framing.

The foreshortening effect of telephoto lenses may draw undue attention to background objects by making them seem closer the subject than they really are. This works in reverse for wide-angle lenses.

3 – Depth of Field

The combination of longer focal length lenses and wide apertures (small f number) places distracting objects in the background out of focus, reducing their visual impact. This works better on larger sensor cameras such as DSLRs and medium format cameras.

In this busy setting maximum f2.8 aperture helped put the background out of focus

In this busy setting maximum f2.8 aperture helped put the background out of focus

4 – Shooting Angle

Foreground clutter may appear inconsequential but it achieves greater impact in the image than when viewing the scene. For example, microphone stands used by stage performers.

Microphone partially obscuring the singer's face

Microphone partially obscuring the singer’s face

In the example photo to achieve a clear shot of the performer’s face required careful positioning and timing as  performers move around the stage.

5 – Lighting

The principal tool for most photographers here is electronic flash. Similarly, to the depth of field, photographers can utilise the limited range of these devices to light the area of interest properly while leaving the background dark.

With only on camera flash the background for this portrait disappears into blackness

With only on camera flash the background for this portrait disappears into blackness

Aperture is the main camera control to influence flash exposure of the main subject, while shutter speed influences the brightness of the background. Choosing a faster shutter speed helps black out the background.

Photoshop

When all else fails there is always editing tools in Photoshop to remove objects but getting it right when making the original image saves tedious work with photo software.

 

 

Share this article on Pinterest  

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *