How-To Guide: Less is More; Busy Backgrounds - by Stephen Oachs

Less is More
Article by Stephen Oachs

Look at the scene before you look through the lens.

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned in photography is to study the scene. Most people have a knee jerk reaction to lift the camera and start shooting as soon as they see an interesting subject. Granted, certain situations may require immediate reaction to capture the moment, but if you can make just a few extra minutes, or even seconds, I bet you'll find better photographic results the next time you head out. Consider the following...

Our Subject -   These two photographs of an Egret were taken just moments apart. They illustrate how to improve a photograph just by changing the angle in which you take the picture. As you can see, a shift to the left removed the busy, distracting background and improved how the light strikes the Egret and the branch, enhancing detail and enriching the colors.

Busy Background -   From this angle, there is a tree branch spanning the width of the scene. The fence and distant trees are blurred due to the aperture setting (f/5.6) but are bright and create a lot of distraction. There are also a couple of foliage tips hanging down into the scene.

Poor Light Source -   The light in this scene was coming from the left, which made for dull color both in the bird and the branches.


Less is More -   By shifting to the left, I was able to remove the branch in the background, as well as the busy foliage in the distance. The darker background creates high contrast on the bird, allowing the wispy feathers on his head to show clearly.

Better Light -   With the light source over my left shoulder, the Egret is lit well, making for a more striking portrait. The shadows are muted and the rich color of the branch is now visible.


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