I’ve chosen a simple image this month to illustrate some of the methods we can employ when out shooting to optimise our chances of capturing the best possible image. As an on-location aide memoire, I’ve created a mnemonic, ‘SIMPLE’, from the first letter of each element.
’S’ represents ‘Simplicity’ itself: this can be both a natural characteristic of the scene, or something we can enhance by the way we photograph it. Restricting the colour palette to a maximum of two or three colours, use of symmetry and attention to visual balance are all excellent ways to simplify our composition.
‘I’ stands for ‘Interpretation’, as a reminder that our photography is unique: it doesn’t matter how other photographers have interpreted the location. Of course, we all have our influences, but the one thing that differentiates us creatively and helps us develop a personal style, is to make our own interpretation of the scene.
‘M’ is for ‘Movement’, and refers to both compositional devices that influence the visual flow through the image, by clever use of shapes and lines to create visual paths for the viewer; and the choice of optimum shutter-speed to slur the passage of time and convey a more visually potent sense of energy.
‘P’ stands for ‘Placement’ and ‘Perspective’. Composing a photograph involves the distillation of three-dimensional chaotic reality to a more ordered two-dimensional representation. This distillation comprises two important choices. Firstly ’placement’ of the essential compositional elements within the frame of our image, and the simultaneous exclusion of less important or distracting objects. Secondly, choice of viewpoint which determines the ‘perspective’ of our image and influences the individual presence and relationships of various compositional elements.
‘L’ refers to ‘Lighting’. Any discussion about photography wouldn’t be complete without mentioning lighting, it is after all the most essential pre-requisite for photography: however, when making an image it’s easy to take lighting for granted. Thinking like a painter and making a conscious effort to observe the way light is falling on our subject can influence our composition, by concentrating our attention on the components of the scene most worthy of emphasis.
‘E’ represents ‘Emotion’: the most important element of all. Our image can convey the ‘feel’ of the actual location or an entirely different and manufactured ‘feel’, depending on how we choose to process it. The ultimate alchemy in making a photograph, transcends a simple encapsulation of time and space, creating a single-sensory visual translation of a multi-sensory emotional experience.