Honing the art of exclusion.
Great photographs are as much about what the photographer decides to exclude from the pictures as it is about what is included in them. If your main subject is overshadowed by other elements, a photo simply will not work. It won’t make an impression on the viewer; in fact, it is more likely to confuse the viewer about what’s important in the picture. A professional photographer won’t just walk up to a flower and start taking pictures; you shouldn’t either. Take a moment to look at the flower and see if there are any imperfections that detract from its beauty. Walk around, look at it from different angles and pay special attention to the background from the selected shooting angle. Photography instructors will tell you that failure to consider the background ruins more pictures than any other thing.
Pay a great deal of attention to your picture’s background before tripping the shutter. This is an important part of isolating your subject. If you have editing skills, you can isolate your subject using your favorite editing program. Remember, being able to edit does not minimize the importance of composing your pictures properly in the first place.
As a general rule, focus on the stamen; it’s good practice and a good focal point for your picture. As is often the case, there are times when rules are made to be broken. Take multiple shots using different focal points. You’re sure to find one shot that is really pleasing.
A key part of isolating your subject is to decide what your subject will be. Is it the complete flower, a macro of the stamen or an isolation shot on the petal? Choose the most interesting component of your subject and zoom in to get the level of detail that is going to interest your viewers. Don’t be afraid to frame the shot so the flower will be cropped; doing so draws the eye to the focal point, eliminates distractions and creates a look from a unique perspective for viewers.
In Part 7 of this series we talked about adding something extra; in this article we talk about exclusion. In every case, objects in the picture should support and enhance the visual strength of the primary subject. Remember to pay special attention to your picture’s background, and shift your point of view when there are distractions from the primary subject.
Honing your exclusion skills will let you isolate the subject, simplify your pictures and make them more appealing to your viewers. It’s an important skill to develop.
Grab your cameras and start practicing the art of exclusion.
If you’ve missed any articles in the series you can find them by going to the MCMGA homepage, select MCMGA Blog link and look for the Photographing Flowers Series 1-7.
Written by Cliff Blackerby, July, 2019.