Thursday, November 3, 2011

Photography: Up-Close Simplicity

I am finishing up a presentation on photography for this Saturday's bloggers conference. I have been looking at lots of pictures and trying to distill what I have learned about making good images into about a 40-minute talk.

What I keep coming back to is, "as in life, as in photography." If you've read this blog for awhile, you know that I value simplicity in all things. 

Leaf in the garden

The most effective and striking images are typically extremely simple. In photography, the skill is in the use of angle, composition, light, focus, and camera position in order to eliminate what is unnecessary and emphasize what is important.

Hanal Pixan flower petals, fallen on the sala floor

But the easiest way to start eliminating the unwanted from images is to move in close. Closeup images by their very nature are often simple. On the surface, moving in begins to eliminate distracting trees, telephone poles, overhead wires and shadows, for instance. It also allows the photograher to observe the subject closely. I am not talking so much about zooming in with a telephoto lens, although this is often useful. I am talking about getting physically very close. I am talking about getting intimate with the subject of the photo, whether it's a living thing or an inanimate object.

My unmade bed (with apologies to Imogen Cunningham)

One of the things I am going to emphasize in Saturday's talk, where I will address an audience with photo skills ranging from hobbyist to professional, is that a good way to practice the discipline of simplification is by moving in close. As a photography teacher of mine once said, "If your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough."

A bitter orange leaf floats in the pool

With the exception of the top photo of the church in Santa Elena, these images were taken around my house this morning with a point-and-shoot camera that has a macro mode. Expensive equipment is not required to make interesting photos. Simplicity in cameras also has its merits.

Other posts on photography.
Other posts on simplicity.


  1. I just love this article, Marc! I value simplicity not only in photography, but in so much else--simplicity makes our lives, well, "simpler!" Thanks. I sure hope I can see your presentation Saturday.

  2. As a result of your talk last year, I have changed the way I handle photographs in my blog. I am sorry to miss this year;s conference.

  3. Great lesson! One I will put into practice as soon as I get a new camera. :)

    I have an award for you on my blog! :)

  4. Your talk yesterday at the conference was wonderful. Thanks for sharing you knowledge with us.

  5. Wish I could have heard this. Thanks for the tips. Photography is not my strong suit. One day, perhaps. Meanwhile, my goal is to attend the blogger conference next year.


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