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Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Lesson 20 of 50

Getting Rid of Clutter

Chris Weston

Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Chris Weston

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Lesson Info

20. Getting Rid of Clutter


Class Trailer

Your 10,001st Photograph


Camera Gear


Piece of Gear We Always Forget


Be a Storyteller


Finding Ideas For Photography - Know Your Subject


Cae Study - Why Are Zebras Black and White Striped


Photograph What You Love


See the Extraordinary in Ordinary Things


Lesson Info

Getting Rid of Clutter

There are four ways to get rid of visual clutter now the most obvious ways to simply crop it out. Take your camera and move physically closer to the subject, or if moving closer is impractical or simply not possible. Then you can switch to a longer focal length lens, which will narrow the angle of view and achieve a similar result of cutting extraneous space around the subject, which is what I did for this image. This is a picture of a bear's poor on dim, particular, its claws on to focus your attention on what is my story. I've used to telephoto lens to crop out all the information. There's not relevant, including most of the bear. Now there's enough information to tell you it's a bear, but I've drawn your eye to the subject. I want you to see the poor now. Cropping works fine with peripheral distractions, stuff that's going on around the subject. What about clutter? Thats directly behind that's not so easy to physically remove. Instead, you have to remove it visually. This is an imag...

e of a kingfisher perched on the stalk of grass. There's not much doubt about that, but look behind the Kingfisher. What I saw was a mask, clump of branches, leaves, bushes and tree trunks. But you can't see that because I've removed all that detail by blurring it. Human beings a program to ignore things that a blood, the greater the blur, the more we ignore it. Now in photography, we can exploit this aspect of our makeup to visually remove distracting clutter that we can't lose physically. Now, another tool you have at your disposal is selective exposure, and a great example of this is a silhouette. Technically, a silhouette is under exposed. But artistically, the deep shadow hides distracting details, which is texture of pattern and color in orderto emphasize shape, this is a giraffe on like the Kingfisher. There's no doubt about that. You can tell by its shape, but can you tell me, for example, the sub species or its age? The answer to both these questions is no, because I haven't given you that information. I've hidden it in the under exposure. Now, with selective exposure, you can also go the opposite way and over exposed bright tones. In this example, I've over exposed the snowy backdrop to remove any semblance of texture to create an artistic interpretation of the scene. The final way of removing distracting visual elements is to use the principles of design. On a perfect example is black and white photography of the five basic elements of design, line, shape, color, pattern and texture. Color is the most powerful to the extent it overwhelms all others is comparable to the power of vision in the five human senses. And just to show you what I mean as an experiment, close your eyes for a moment and notice all the sounds going on around you that you were oblivious to when your eyes were open. As vision overpowers, our other four senses. So color overpowers the other four elements of design. And here's an example. I was watching this hippo very late in the day at a waterhole in Kruger National Park. Now in color, it's a poor snapshot, a record of the event. So why did I take it to answer that question? Let's see what happens when I turn it black and white. Notice how the shakiness and texture of the hippos head suddenly stands out. That's what I saw, texture and shape of my story, and I've removed color to help tell that story in a visually powerful way. I'm going to end this module not with my words, but the words of the legendary photographer William a lot. It's how you see It's the old Hemingway house, which you cutaway cutaway kind of way to get rid of the stuff you don't need your responsible for every little bit of that space within the picture. In other words, great photographs are defined by what you leave out rather than what you keep in No.

Class Description



  • Compose a shot consistently and effectively
  • Create artistic, powerful images quickly
  • Gain confidence in building narrative
  • Identify what stories you’re drawn to photograph
  • Brainstorm and develop concepts for creative shots
  • Trust your instincts when approaching a subject


CreativeLive is partnering with Chris Weston to offer you his Complete Photography Master Course. This is the second class in the series.

Today, everybody has a camera, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s a photographer. Chris Weston will show you how to do all the other stuff – how to “see” an image, tap into your creativity, and compose a photograph that makes the subject look as good in print as it does in real life.

This class isn’t about cameras, it’s about you – the photographer. It will break free your creative mind, get you thinking about narrative rather than object, and show you how to apply simple artistic skills that turn that next click into a powerful photograph.

Learn how to approach photography like a pro and start creating great pictures straight away. With in-the-field lessons, case studies and powerful tips and techniques, you’ll quickly unleash your creativity and gain confidence in expressing yourself through your camera.


  • Beginner photographers
  • First time DSLR or mirrorless camera users
  • Any photographer who wants to hone their artistic skills


Named one of the world's most influential wildlife photographers, Chris Weston takes a contemporary approach to photography. After launching his career in 2001, the Fujifilm ambassador's images have graced the pages of top publications like BBC, The Times, Outdoor Photography, Practical Photography, and Digital Photography. As a photography educator, Chris has written over 20 photography books, along with leading photo tours and online workshops.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Edmund Cheung

Perhaps the style of presentation and simple, short, and direct messaging does not "jive" with some; but others may really love this. Yes the production of each episode is stylized and perhaps a bit formal (like a TV Show?), but there is something to be said about it. Perhaps this is not meant for professional photographers? I think of myself as decent amateur / high level photographer. I found lots of great nuggets of wisdom and inspiration from this. Especially when I an in a rut for creativity. Yes I have heard all these concepts and ideas before. BUT it is always great to hear and see a different way of presentation and voice. Please do NOT take the naysayer reviews as the end all. You should judge for yourself and watch a few episodes. If the style and content click for you, I would highly recommend this course.

Kai Atherton

While I am perhaps more advanced in my photography then this course. It is always great to be able to go back to fundamentals and remind ourselves of the basic principles, and even camera function. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and Chris's other. It is a great motivational jumpstart when lacking fresh creative idea's.

Abdullah Alahmari

Thanks a lot to mr. Chris Weston This course is great and It is a 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 course for me. Beside the other course ( mastering the art of photography ) both courses are Complementing to each other and highly recommended.