Thursday, April 21, 2016

Take Responsibility For What's In The Frame

Sun Rays Over Comings Mountain - Tehachapi, California
There's nothing in this image to distract you from what it's about.
You're the photographer. It's your job to ensure everything in the frame is as you want it. If it's not, it's nobody's fault but yours. Be responsible for it! That may sound harsh, but it's completely true.

You can always tell if a photograph was captured by an experienced photographer or an inexperienced photographer based on how many distractions are found in the frame. An experienced photographer will scan the edges, the foreground and background prior to opening the shutter to check for things that shouldn't be there (no matter how small!). An inexperienced photographer won't think to do this.

"I'm always scanning the edges of the frame automatically because we're responsible for everything in that frame," said Robert Holmes. "As a photographer, it's your fault if there's something in there that shouldn't be."

I wasn't taught this in any of the photography classes I took in college. I had to learn it the hard way. For many years I failed to check the entire frame. But then I noticed that other photographers--one's that I admired--had cleaner images. What was the difference? They made sure that the distractions were removed from the frame.
Wet Pier - Goodyear, Arizona
This is an older image where I paid less attention to distractions. Note the cutoff leaf at the bottom-left corner. I also would have had one of the lines come out of the bottom-right corner to lead the viewer into the imagine instead of out. A couple of inches are all I needed to make a stronger photo.
Even after realizing this, it still took years of practice for it to become second nature. I had to force myself to check. And I would forget sometimes. But over time it become an automatic part of my process.

What do I look for in the frame? Anything that would be a distraction. This might be a pole out of someone's head, branches from the edges, something high-contrast that would distract the viewer's eyes, lines that lead out of the image (from the edges) instead of into the image (from the corners)--there are so many potential distractions that it would be difficult to list them all. It's the photographer's job to identify the distractions and remove them. You can't always remove all of the distractions, but you should get rid of as many as you can.

How does one remove distractions from the frame? Move up or down, left or right, forward or back--usually only a few inches are needed. Small changes can make big differences! Also, if the distraction is something that moves, sometimes all you need to do is wait.

Take responsibility for what is in the frame. Look for distractions--sweep the edges--and remove everything that doesn't belong.

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