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Photo by Scott Bourne

(Snow Goose – Bosque del Apache, NM. Canon 1d MK II – Sigma 300-800 Zoom)

I once heard a famous photographer say, “The difference between a professional photographer and an amateur photographer is that the pro knows what NOT to include in the photograph.”

Whenever you frame an image, look around the viewfinder for a few seconds and ask yourself if there’s anything in the photo that you could exclude. Can you tell the same photographic story by including only a small part of the subject?

Would a detail shot offer more to the viewer than a wide, all-inclusive panorama?

Simple is almost always best. If you can’t think of a very good reason to keep something in the picture, get rid of it. Try to keep as few elements in the scene as possible. Focus the viewer’s attention on one simple idea, and your photos will have bigger impact.

This post sponsored by Lensbabies.

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. An amazing shot and great advice as always.
    ps. Great show too! Your show has become my favorite photography related podcast.

    pps. Any advice on extension tubes? [I shoot with the Nikon D200.]

  2. The Sigmonster!

  3. Beautiful. I have just spent a week driving in the epic landscape of Mongolia (I am living here for work). You would love the many kinds of eagles that are always hovering overhead. I have noticed the current poll results and as I am in a significant minority I better start being vocal in my contributions to TWIP :-)

  4. Yes! This is something I learned very early on in print design, and applying it to photography has made all the difference.

  5. I don’t know what famous photographer your quote. But, I’ve been saying this for years. “A good photographer knows what to shoot, I great photographer knows what not to shoot.” As a avid snap-shot photographer, I think the big difference between a good snapshot and a great photograph is only what gets left out.

  6. In my opinion, this is the single most important thing that turns a snapshot into a photo. It isn’t just about what is in frame, it’s about what isn’t. Sometimes you want your image to speak about the expansive horizon. Sometimes it is good to include the garbage cans behind the bride for effect, possibly comic. But more often than not, they just take away from the focus of the image.

    Great shot, BTW.

  7. Good advice, and USUALLY true. ;)

    Sometimes the environment is what makes the subject so interesting. Every rule has exceptions. ;)

  8. Who said anything about excluding the environment Eric? I said “If you can’t think of a very good reason to keep something in the picture, get rid of it.”

    There’s no exception whatsoever to that rule.

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