Photography became a passion of mine years ago, and I love running a side business of event, wedding, and family portraiture. Photography is a powerful tool to visually communicate powerful concepts. I passionately believe that every person has a story, and I love using a camera to help them tell it!
Allow me to chat about composition just a bit. In the world of photography, there are as many ways to take a picture as there are photographers. How the elements are arranged in your scene, your angle and perspective, and your subject itself when you click the shutter button—that is composition.
Let’s look at an image that just has a bunch going on in the frame:
Foreground elements, backdrop, reflector, props, extra people, subject running away… it’s all here. How can we work with what we have to make it a stronger image?
One definition of composition is this:
The art of arranging all elements of an image to achieve the greatest emotional impact.
So one way of looking at composing your frame is to arrange all the elements in your image to create the best possible image.
This works when you start out with everything in your image that you want. But if there are elements that don’t support your subject, you just get a messy, cluttered, and slightly-organized image.
Have you ever had a day like that? A day where you are arranging all the myriad things in your day to achieve the greatest impact…but there’s just way too much to start with? Where it’s like you have a plate of intertwined spaghetti, and the act of organizing your Task List is more akin to trying to organize spaghetti noodles? It tends to become a messy exercise in sauce-covered frustration.
Composition like this only works if you don’t have unnecessary things in your frame to begin with.
Another way to look at composition is:
The elimination of unnecessary objects in order to direct attention to the subject.
This is a grand definition. Just get rid of everything that doesn’t belong, and then you are left with that one thing that is your subject.
Now, this has a lot to do with the personality of the photographer, but the optimist in me dies a little every time I try to apply this concept to my life. I feel like I’m giving something away or denying something whenever I have to remove an item from my calendar. Like I’m a failure if I say “I can’t do this,” or I’m letting someone down if I try to hand it back. That I’m defining it as “unnecessary,” even though by itself it may be a grand activity and a worthwhile endeavor.
There are all these marvelous ideals, noble goals, big dreams, and bonus items that seemed like a good idea at the time. They’ve all snuck in to my calendar and now life is overwhelming. If my focus isn’t on my subject, then I feel gypped or like a failure if I remove something. And things invariably stay that don’t need to be there.
Finally, there is this definition, in all of its beautiful simplicity:
Fill the Frame.
Think: What is my subject? How can I arrange my image in such a way that everything in my frame is about that subject?
Zoom in on your main subject today. Spend just a bit of time contemplating: what is it?
Why are you taking this picture in the first place? When you take the time to define your Why, then you cease to wander around with a camera, waiting for your perfect image to come to you. You go out and create your image. You don’t have to wonder whether you’re getting the right shot. Instead, you can work to make it happen. You have this mindset of actively waiting as things fall into place, rather than wasting time generating a thousand variations.
I would suggest to you that if it is really hard to say No to a need that is not your need to address, then you haven’t honed in on your Why quite yet. Once you have, it’s not that you are saying No—it’s that you are so focused on fulfilling your purposeful, passionate “Yes!” that it is simple to say, “What a great invite! I appreciate your asking me, and I will cheer for you as you do it, but I’m already booked.”
So while you could look at your day and arrange it in a pleasing manner, or remove everything that doesn’t belong there, consider this Big Hairy Audacious Goal: Fill the Frame.
Define that One Thing you want to be doing today. Pray for a holy “Yes!,” then go out and purposefully change your world for the glory of God.
“You are able to do many things. But be sure you find the one thing you must do.”
Howard G. Hendricks