Things the photography guide books don’t tell you about composition (part 2)
5. Wait for the traffic
If there’s a road in the scene you are composing watch out for traffic and (in most cases) time the shot to avoid having any traffic in it.
If the road is quite nearby it’s often possible to conceal it by shooting from a slightly lower angle than normal.
If you’re photographing an area with busy traffic consider taking a sequence of shots with the camera rock-steady on a tripod. Shoot until you have at least one shot of every area in the scene without any traffic. You can then create a composite image without any cars.
6. Get rid of tourists
Tourists can really clutter up a photogenic scene. The best way to avoid them is to shoot early in the morning before there are many around, but if you can’t avoid them try shooting a sequence of images with the camera on a tripod and then create a composite image in the same way as we suggest dealing with traffic.
Another option is to use a heavy neutral density filter to allow you to take a very long exposure in daylight. As the tourists are moving they shouldn’t register in the image.
Using a less dense ND filter can also work well because the shorter (long) exposure means the tourists register as a blur giving a sense of how busy the place is and it can create a more interesting image. An alternative approach is to make the tourists part of the image. Don’t just include them, make them the subject and document the real feel of the location rather than the post-card view
7. Distracting colours
Some colours, such as red, can really draw your eye. While this can be used to good effect, it’s a real pain when it’s an object that you don’t really want to be centre of attention.
If you’re photographing a rural scene, for example, and there’s a red bucket in a field or there’s a bright road sign, your eye will be distracted from the main view. However, the impact of these objects can be dramatically decreased by converting the image to black and white.
This is also a great way of dealing with scenes that have a random mix of colours that don’t work especially well together.
8. Make a crop
Sometimes you’re faced with a fabulous scene, but there’s nothing really interesting in the foreground and adding something just looks wrong. In these instances a dramatic crop to create a panorama can work really well.
We often see images cropped to 16:9, but other formats such as 1:3 can be used to good effect as well.
In fact you can use just about any format that you like, you can crop without a fixed format, but for the best results try to visualise how you want the final image to look before you press the shutter release home. Many cameras have a crop mode which allows you to see a cropped image on the screen (or in the viewfinder of CSCs). If your camera doesn’t have this feature, two pieces of card which are held to block out parts of the image when you view it on the camera’s screen can be just as effective