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Look for clean and simple

By Dave Brosha

The longer you’re in photography, the more you train your eye to look for clean compositions and the more you think about what NOT to include in your images, rather than what to include. Most of us tend to include way too much in our images when we start photography, with no clear, concise point of interest of the subject.

A challenge you can give yourself in any situation – no matter what genre of photography you love shooting – is to ask, before pressing the shutter: What do I want to express with this image? Is it the emotion? The story? The contrast? Something specifically beautiful or powerful within the scene?

Once you’ve answered the question of “what” you find appealing, you’ll then find it easier to narrow down on that element and strip out the unnecessary.

After thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of images, you’ll find that this narrowing down becomes easier and easier, and eventually becomes instinct.

In this particular scene – a chinstrap penguin colony in Antarctica – I, like many who have experience penguin colonies, started my experience onshore feeling overwhelmed. Penguin colonies are massive, and such a powerful experience to take in. Photographically, they can be challenging, however. There’s just…so much going on. Hundreds, or thousands of penguins doing what penguins do. The noise, the sight…and yes, the smell….can truly bombard the senses.

I found that my first 30 minutes at most of the colonies we visited yielded very few images, and even fewer “keepers”. It would take me time to simply experience the scene…and then time to ask myself what is it that I saw that really spoke to me, or stood out to me. My initial compositions tended to be cluttered, but as the minutes passed and I took more and more in, the “simple” would eventually reveal itself to me. Maybe it was a lone penguin doing something different than the masses. Or a repetitive pattern that was visually appealing. Or, in this case, a beautiful scene of an adult penguin feeding its young. It helped that they were standing “above” the masses, but it also took me shifting slowly around the outer ring of the colony to find the right angle where the penguins would be framed against the clean, simple white snow background (and not against the rock).

It helped frame my subject, simply…but much more effectively.

Dave originally wrote this article for our private online photography community here at OFFBEAT. There are dozens more where that came from. If that sounds like something you like the sound of, sign up for our community!

northern lights shimmer through cloudy skies and over a mountain range bordering a frozen lake

OFFBEAT Contributor Feature: Kahli Hindmarsh

We recently had a chance to catch up with OFFBEAT contributor and night, landscape, and adventure photographer, Kahli Hindmarsh, to find out more about her photography business, creative inspiration, and wisdom she’d like to share with new photographers. Originally from Australia, Kahli now resides in Canmore, Alberta, and, naturally, she can usually be found outdoors, exploring and searching for intriguing scenes in interesting light.

two old Volkswagon vans sit abandoned in a forest with the surrounding greenery seemingly swallowing them.

The Ongoing Guide to Getting Unstuck

By Kyle McDougall

For this article today, I figured I’d switch things up a little bit and write about a topic that I’ve become very familiar with throughout my career, and also one that I’m constantly trying to find new solutions for.

That is—how to get unstuck when you’re feeling burnout, lacking creativity, or even just getting bored.

Finding Your Niche

By Lizzy Gadd

When I look at my work now, I admit I do feel very fortunate to have somehow fallen into this niche of ethereal self-portraiture/landscape mixtures that, I humbly also admit, I am kind of proud of.

It was a long process getting there. I don’t really know how it happened. But the moment I found it, it felt right. It’s what speaks to me, being able to express myself, and my love of nature, together. And so I’ve been doing exactly that for nine years now, and it still feels right.

Kyle McDougall OFFBEAT Photo Storytelling

What Are You Trying to Say?

By Kyle McDougall

What are you trying to say?

A question that I revisit often. It grounds me and gets me back on track whenever I’m pulled in different directions during this wild creative journey. But maybe even more importantly, the answer to that question plays a huge role in helping me make decisions in the field and later on while back home processing.

Thinking Beyond a Snapshot: 12 Key Components to Consider

By Kahli Hindmarsh

When I first started to take photos, one of my biggest hurdles I faced was figuring out how to take what was in front of my camera and turn it into a compelling image.

That should be the easy part, right? Find an interesting subject, point your camera, press the shutter and boom! Not quite… I was visiting these amazing places, but when I looked at my images, all I saw was “tourist” style snapshots. They lacked meaning and interest. They were cluttered and messy. They didn’t tell a story.