In focus: Things to avoid

  • Published : Mar 30, 2010 - 17:19
  • Updated : Mar 30, 2010 - 17:19


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By Aaron Raisey

When we are out there with a camera, we are always looking for good photographic opportunities, interesting subjects, nice light, things that are different, or things to look at differently. In other words, we are looking for the right things to do to make a better picture.
This is great, but what about the things we shouldn`t do? What are a few simple things we can avoid doing, or including in our pictures to help us create better images?
Avoid `kissing` edges. Kissing? What I mean are strong edges in the picture that just touch. For example, the edge of your subject`s head and the roofline of a background building, or the point of a temple`s eaves and the trunk of a tree. Try to put space between strong edges such as these in your image.
Don`t have things sticking out of someone`s head. Have you ever taken a great photo and later found that your girlfriend has a flagpole sticking out the top of her head like some kind of antennae? It can look amusing, but unfortunately can also ruin an otherwise excellent image.
Try and compose the image or place the subject somewhere that avoids this picture-killer. This is extremely important when taking a photograph that has a dynamic background such as traffic or pedestrians. It`s bad enough with a flagpole out her head, but you don`t want someone walking into her ear as well.
Don`t try to get everything into the photo. We often want pictures to have context, especially with holiday snaps, but try to resist "nailing everything" in one photograph. You don`t want a bunch of Where`s Waldo pics to show the folks back home. Rather, take several photos from different points of view, giving each a clear subject. Also, work on separating that subject from the background through the use of distance or a larger aperture.
So, what can we do to avoid these things? It`s easy in theory - pay attention to the entire image when looking through the viewfinder. In practice though, it`s a little more difficult than that. We tend to see only what we are focused on because our brains filter out those things we aren`t immediately concerned with.
So when we are taking a picture of our partner or friend, we usually see only them and not the details in the background. The camera however, is impartial - it sees everything equally. This is why we all get that "Hey, I didn`t notice that when I took the picture!" feeling at times.
Try and avoid that feeling by remembering to take note of what`s going on around and behind your subject. Are there people moving around back there? Are there any inconvenient power cables, poles or trees? Do I have enough space around my subject? Often the solution can be as simple as raising or lowering your point of view a few centimeters, or moving a few paces to the left or right, forward or back.
It requires an effort initially, but soon the ability to avoid these things will become a natural part of your photography.
Check out how the best expat photographers in Korea do it at the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.