Focus on Travel Photography

Photography Composition Rules Close-Ups Simplifying Filling the Frame Choosing a Format Placing the Horizon Line The Rule of Thirds Lines Taking Pictures Through Frames Patterns Textures High and Low Camera Angles Abstract Composition Establishing Size Color
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Trying to pack too much information into a photograph is like cramming too much into your suitcase. It only makes the thing you're looking for that much harder to find. A good photograph—travel or otherwise—should reveal a single subject or idea with as little clutter as possible. It's okay if someone looking at your travel photos asks where they were taken, but if he or she has to ask what they are pictures of, you're on shaky ground, photographically speaking.

Paring your compositions down to their bare bones begins as a mental process. Try to describe in a single sentence what it is you're photographing: "This is a photograph of a lighthouse at sunset." Then begin to eliminate all but the essential visual elements. Do you need the kids on the sandbar in the foreground to make the picture? Or the boat dock in the background?

One way to isolate subjects is to experiment with different angles of view. Often, shooting from an elevated vantage point will help you eliminate distracting or cluttered backgrounds, while getting down on your belly and shooting from ground level will let you isolate subjects against the sky. Another way to subdue a busy background is to use a technique called selective focus, which puts everything except your main subject out of focus. Of course, if your subject is movable (like a person), you can always move it to simpler surroundings.

Yet another technique for clarifying your message is to silhouette a subject by photographing it against a brightly lit background—a fisherman at sunset—so its shape is instantly identifiable.

Next: "Filling the Frame"