Keep It Simple! Make Your Photos More Powerful

Having lots of elements in a photo doesn’t always guarantee a good and interesting photo. Sometimes even the simplest photo can be better than one prepared long hours in advance. Learn to shoot simply, and don’t forget the details. You’ll get more pleasing pictures.

Many beginning—and even advanced—photographers look for complications everywhere. And yet you can take a picture much more simply—without conspicuous elements that look superfluous and complicate your picture.

The Wow Effect

You can call something a “wow effect” if it feels “added” to a photo—laboriously added. With a “wow” picture, a photographer is trying to appeal to the masses.

You can find such photos in every category—street, portrait, fashion, nudes, and even landscapes.

Give Your Pictures a Story

A typical example from street photography is a picture of a dirt-smudged child taken for example while journeying in India. For a layman, this kind of picture can seem fantastic—it’s sharp, with a blurry background, and shows the hardship of life in poverty, right?

But looking at such a photo more carefully, you can ask yourself: what does this photo express? What did the author want to say? Such a photo tells nothing about the child’s story—it contains nothing more, nothing deeper. So you can even say this is nothing but an average tourist photo.

And yet documentary topics like this can be photographed so much better when you get to know people well, get to know their stories, and try to capture those in photos. That gives you much more worthwhile pictures. For inspiration we can recommend for example the webpage of photographer Jindřich Streit.

You can take a lot of photos like this abroad. But what then?

You can take a lot of photos like this abroad. But what then?

Simple Success in Fashion Photography

Portraits and above all fashion are a wow-effect chapter all their own. Photographers try to dress models in unbelievable clothes, bring them to unbelievable places, and put each model in an unbelievable pose. And here they run into a fundamental problem: the photographer may not actually know the best makeup to use on the model, the best clothing, or the best location to match that clothing.

That’s why it’s better to invite a makeup artist. And a fashion stylist to advise on how the model should dress. That way you can avoid producing monstrosities such as beach photos with the model dressed in a swimsuit, high heels, and a rapper-worthy necklace. No swimsuit company will ever want that photo. No shoe company or jeweler, either. They’re likely not going to use them in advertising, ever.

Just leaf through the latest issues of any fashion magazine. What you’ll find there is simple photos.

A typical example of the “wow effect”—but is it actually any good?

A typical example of the “wow effect”—but is it actually any good?

A much more worthwhile photo—that’s worth money for customers.

A much more worthwhile photo—that’s worth money for customers.

Landscape

Many photographers will travel half the world to capture an interesting place in their photos. Even when they would do much better to visit places they know and capture them when nature is an unusual mood. For example an unusual sky can also make for a great photo, and the right light can help too—for example the light of the golden hour.

Backgrounds

Backgrounds are also fundamental here. The simpler, the better. We don’t mean to say that you have to stick to a studio, definitely not. Just find places and compositions without an excess of distracting elements. So—avoid color gradients, huge color billboards, and the like.

Another thing. Photographers often leave a blurred background—a bokeh. But that’s cheating a little. The really artful thing to do is to find a good background and use it to the photo’s advantage.

How not to do a photo: fractured background, awkward location, awkward position, and as a bonus, an out-of-place prop.

How not to do a photo: fractured background, awkward location, awkward position, and as a bonus, an out-of-place prop.

A much more pleasant, much simpler photograph.

A much more pleasant, much simpler photograph.

Keep It Simple

Don’t seek complications in your photographs; instead try to express what you see, and not what others want to see. There’s a reason why they say that simple is beautiful and less is sometimes more. That applies in photography too. So try sticking to these several simple rules, and your photography can be better and freer. Meanwhile don’t forget basic details such as composition, the model’s expression, and above all, light.

Last updated 19. October 2015

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Author: Majo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

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Comments

  • Great information, I like the theory of keeping things simple. This seems to be a good starting point to teach people new in photography.

    • Zoner

      Thanks, we’re happy you like it! :)

  • Keeping it simple is always the best. But that does not always happen and you have to take a shot and hope for the best. I have some photos shot on spur of the moment that came out great.

    • Zoner

      Definitely. Sometimes it’s more interesting and maybe funny to make things complicated, but that’s not a good starting point for beginners.