Two More Minutes To A Place Far Better

Yes, I timed it . . .

If some guy promised that you could make your pictures fifty percent more beautiful and interesting by investing just one or two more minutes before shooting, would you believe him or would you be tempted to write him off as just another hype-selling charlatan, like that “AB-ERCISER” dude who was yelling at you from your tv late last night when he awakened you from your couch-surfing slumber?

The light at my back door was like warm honey this morning, tasty enough that I just knew I needed to snap a picture of it’s glowing effect on one of my favorite garden pots. But you know, as beautiful as it was, it was not nearly stunning enough to overcome the visual distractions of the barbecue grill in the background, or the spent-bloom clutter on the deck, beneath it.


Well first off, sonny boy, move that dang grill with that long-nosed, red lighter sitting on it out of your shot. It adds nothing but clutter and distraction, pulling your eye up and away from the true object of your visual desire. That’s why they put wheels on the bottom of the thing, silly. Then, grab a broom and sweep those fallen flowers off the deck. Now seriously, was that so hard?

What’s that you say? What about those wet stains from where the smaller pots were? Well, put one of ’em back to fill the visual hole in the lower right and then just plan on cropping up from the bottom and down from the top to make your photo a square composition. It doesn’t matter if your camera doesn’t shoot squares automatically. Just try to pre-visualize it, knowing that you’re going to crop it before you show anyone. That will get rid of the cluttered look at the base, and it will eliminate a bunch of that cream colored trim board at the top of the frame that keeps drawing your eye upward to it without rewarding you for the effort.

You can see the difference, right?

Two minutes. I timed myself. Two minutes to stop and think, to roll the barbecue out of frame, sweep the deck around the pot and move just one little pot back into the frame at the lower right. And then, OK, maybe another two minutes while prepping this blog post to figure out the crop and add that delicious, offsetting, golden hairline and the dark frame around the image (top photo). You wrap birthday gifts, don’t you? Makes them seem just a bit more special. Adds a bit more ‘oomph’ to what you’re offering. Well, if you’re not already framing your pictures before you show them to us, have you ever considered asking yourself why not?

I’ll post up a lesson on how to do that, soon.



13 thoughts on “Two More Minutes To A Place Far Better”

  1. Love the winning shot. Seems a little more closely-focused with a softer background… Different F-stop? And I do like the way you keep your images on the dark, lush, more mysterious side. I tend to overexpose everything, even in post-processing, which I think has psychological implications. “Let’s just blow out those dark shadows and make it light and bright!” Not always the best idea, as you demonstrate.

  2. Excellent info David! I so get what you’re saying. I sometimes don’t see what’s cluttering my shot until after I shoot it. Luckily, it’s most often in my own garden so I can go back out and give it another try. Thank you, and that is just lovely. Warm and red and glowing. Yum.~~Dee

  3. An interesting lesson in the mechanics of putting a great shot together.

    Our eyes selectively ‘see’ the beauty of a particular vignette, magically blocking out the visual distractions. The camera lens is brutally honest, we need to coax it into capturing our vision.

    Two minutes well spent!

  4. As you’ve so clearly shown, it’s so much easier to clean up the frame before releasing the shutter than to try to fix it later in your favorite photo editing program. It also helps to use depth of field preview to make sure that whatever soft-looking thingy in the background doesn’t snap into focus if you’re shooting stopped down.

  5. That’s a fun post. Lately I’ve been doing a bit of pruning and deadheading that I wouldn’t normally bother with just to take a nice garden photo. Which means the photography ends up making the garden look better even out of the frame!

    1. Of course you are welcome, Kathryn. And a little secret that you’ve probably already guessed: I use these lesson opportunities to remind myself as much as anyone else. Seeing well is the work of a lifetime.

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