A Top Tip for Improving Your Photographic Compositions — The Big Picture
Don’t forget to “go wide” with your landscape photos to improve your images.
“Going wide” does not necessarily mean using a wide-angle lens but rather to include the environment around the main subject which can really give your photographic compositions the WOW factor. The area around the main attraction — the setting of a particular scene — can be as important an element in your image as the main subject.
The “Hero” or “Star” and the “Supporting Cast”
The iconic scenes we visit on our Photography Travel Tours often feature what we like to call the main “hero/star.” In these images of the Chapel of St. Primož in NE Slovenia, the chapel is the main attraction and I chose to photograph this scene wide. Expansive compositions can often tell more of a story (or even a different story) and make an image a lot more impactful. It’s up to us to appreciate and be aware of the supporting cast that makes our hero special.
My lens of choice for this composition was the Sony 24-105. This lens allows me to capture the church and the environment surrounding it. It is not the church alone that makes this a successful and impactful image. I most likely would not have photographed this church if I had come across it (like many similar ones) in the valley. However, the lonesome chapel on this high ridge with the Kamnik Alps in the background is breathtaking. I also photographed this scene a little tighter, with my Sony 100-400 lens, and I like the results, especially when the prominent peak in the background is visible. In both cases, the viewer gets a sense of how special and surprising it is to discover this little gem of a chapel high up in the Alps.
Tight or Wide? I’d say Both — Always work the scene!
We frequently see our photo tour clients honing in on the main subject in their compositions and leaving out the surrounding environment. I sometimes compose the same way. But I also encourage everybody to zoom out to include the surroundings. Ask yourself what is unique about a scene and what kind of supporting cast the “hero” needs to really stand out.
The image above shows how precarious this colorful fishing village perches against the steep cliffs on the Ligurian Coast. Looking at this image, one can’t help but ask how on earth anybody was able to ever build all this. The cropped version below is less desirable in my opinion as it shows less of the wind-swept exposure that makes this town so unique.
Photography means Experimentation
The takeaway here is, again, to always work the scene. Use different focal lengths, but don’t forget to go wide and include the surroundings that are often just as important as the main subject. In fact, you’ll often find more than one “hero” in a scene. A beautiful tree, the surrounding meadow, and a dramatic sky can all be equally important and create drama through synergy.
Of course, considering the Big Picture as a top tip to improve your photographic compositions is just one suggestion of many and not to be taken as an ironclad rule. We don’t like strict rules in photography and we are often surprised when we try different approaches when it comes to composition.