Monday, July 14, 2014

Capturing Simplicity

by Terri

“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how 
efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your 
priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter
 in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.” ~ Victoria Moran

With our theme this month here at FOL of “simplify”, I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity in photography. There's a lot to be said for the simple approach, both to life and photography. Digital photography is a complex subject. There is a lot to learn, and it's easy to overcomplicate things and forget that photography is ultimately about taking beautiful photos, and enjoying the process as you go along.

There are several ways to achieve simplicity in a photograph. The most obvious (and easiest) form is to place the subject against a neutral background like a backdrop or the sky. Backgrounds can be entirely neutral, like a solid backdrop or a cloudless sky; or they can complement the image, like shells on the sand.

The more technical method of achieving simplicity involves focusing on the subject while ensuring the background is unfocused. I think the most compelling images are the ones that leave no doubt about what your subject is. Everything that is not essential to the story you are telling is eliminated from the photo. 

But sometimes it’s not possible to achieve that simplicity we are striving for because we are shooting “in the moment” and capturing life as it happens. But that doesn’t mean that we have to settle for snapshot-like photos. I took this photo of my granddaughter by the pool a few weekends ago:

I had to shoot quickly before she moved. What I was trying to capture were her incredible eyelashes and sweet expression, not the stray body parts of the people near her or the floating chlorine bobber in the pool. This is when cropping your shot can mean the difference between a snapshot and a storytelling portrait. For this shot, I cropped it vertically so I could include just what I wanted to keep in the image:

It’s the exact same photo but with all the extraneous “stuff” cropped out. While I try to crop in camera as much as possible, being able to do it after the fact if necessary really can save the day.

Summer is the perfect time for simplicity – in photography as well as in life.

“And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives,
 each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers
 and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets 
and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.” ~ Nicholas Sparks
Are you keeping things simple this summer? We'd love to see some of the simple beauty you are capturing in the Flickr gallery


Dotti said...

Such beautiful illustrations and explanation of 'simplify' in photography and life. The photo of your granddaughter is so wonderful. My calendar is in good shape. My cupboards ... uh, let's not go there. {But I will ... it's time to get rid of the clutter I don't need.}

AFishGirl said...

Lovely post, Terri. I'm not sure if I'm keeping things simple but it's a lifelong quest and one I believe in. That shot of your granddaughter, oohhhhh, so sweet.

kelly said...

beautiful photos terri. and I especially love how the deliberate crop on your sweet little granddaughter made the image so much stronger. plus, for me it's a good reminder to me that sometimes simplicity doesn't have to be complete overhaul on my life....just a simple cropping of things that don't need to be in the picture (so to speak). I love this month's theme...something I continually work on in my own life.

heyjudephotography said...

Oh Terri, these photos! Just stunning! I think this technique would work in other parts of our lives as well, don't you think? Just "cropping" out the unnecessary, or unwanted things in our life. If only it were that simple!

Cathy said...

Oh Terri, all these photos are amazing. But her sweet expression and those eyelashes, well just so cute. Great post, and I agree with Judy, we need to crop out the unnecessary and unwanted things in life if we can.

Deanna said...

Well, you know I adore the cherry shot, perfect!! And that sweet image of your granddaughter is just adorable. Wish I could crop out my garage and basement...would sure make my life simpler!! Lovely post, Terri!!

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