#1 Reason Photographs Fail
Over the years, I've reviewed tens of thousands of images, and the conclusion I have come to is this. The number one reason a photograph fails to get its message across is because there's far too much information cluttering the image space. Think about a sketch artist. He starts with a blank canvas. Then he adds visual elements, line and shape, color, pattern and texture to build the visual story and create an image that gets to the essence of his subject. Sketching oil painting, watercolors, cartoon drawings. They're all arts of addition. You start with nothing a blank canvas, and you add to it until you get the final image. As a photographer, however, you don't have the luxury of starting with a blank canvas, because when you look through your viewfinder, it's already filled with visual elements. But there's no structure. Everything is random. Your role, then, as the photographer, is to bring order to that chaos. And to do that, you start by identifying first the elements in the scen...
e that add to your story and then those that distract now to show you what I mean. Take a look through my viewfinder, this old winches affectionately known locally as Red Crane. It's a steel replacement of a hand operated wouldn't winch. It was first used a load blocks of Portland Stone on the waiting ships before it was moved here in the early 20th century and used to lower fishermen and their boats down to the sea. Although it's still in use, the ravages of weather and its proximity to Portland's Wild Sea has left it rattled and haggard. That's the story I want to tell now. In this composition, there's too much information distracting you, the viewer from my intended story. For one thing, the crane is partially obscured by the big rock. There's a dad and two kids on the left, a guy fishing over on the right, next to a woman sunbathing and tourists wandering around in the background, which are all distractions. And then we have the boat in the lighthouse, which is dominating the space. All of the visual elements. I've just identified a bits of information that they're taking your attention away from the narrative of my story, and now that I've identified them, I have to simplify the composition by getting rid of them effectively. I have to remove them from the picture space. So here's my new composition. I've moved closer to the crane, so it fills the frame. I've changed with vertical format, which crops out the distracting people along with the boat, and I've positioned the foreground struck so it hides the lighthouse by removing all the distractions I've made my story unambiguous. Removing distracting visual elements is, I think, the most important part of composition on all of the tools you need to do it right here in the camera. And in the next lesson, I show you what they are and how to use them. No.