Lessons from the Scene: How Much Is Enough? by Stanley Leary

by Stanley Leary


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Too much stuff in a photograph draws the attention away from the main subject. If the photographer makes no attempt to select one subject, the image fails to communicate. The “run on sentence” is the written word equivalent of capturing too much in the frame. A close-up frequently reveals more about the subject than a picture of the whole scene.
Too many photographers shoot general views because they believe it offers “good composition” or beautiful light. A detail photograph can have more impact than a wide shot that includes too much. Move in closer to eliminate distracting detail.

Shoot a wide scene, and then get closer.

Take a step closer until you identify the most important subject. Make a statement about the main element of the scene. A lot of details seen in photographs are unimportant to the main subject. Learn how to select the part or parts that are most meaningful.
Great photographers understand that composition is more than too much detail. It’s a matter of feeling rather than a bunch of rules. The isolated parts of a photo can give understanding to the subject. It can tell a compressed story, sometimes more dramatically by scaling it down to a specific idea.
In approaching a subject decide how much to include in the viewfinder. One must force the eye to look around the frame, at each corners, and everything within the viewfinder. As one walks through life, we find out we never “know it all”. We learn to appreciate different elements that become more significant to us. Look for what is significant in the composition.