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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making sense out of visual clutter

One of the most difficult things about street photography is cutting through all the visual clutter so that you're just left with the essence of the story.

The weekly Saturday market in the small Himalayan town of Namche in Nepal is the perfect example of this. A thriving hub of traders, locals, tourists and animals produce a cacophony of noise and photogenic subjects everywhere you look.

The trick is to slow yourself down a bit, settle in one place and just watch what is going on around you. Many people make the mistake of using a wide-angle lens to try and fit everything into the one frame.

The problem is that the more subjects you have in one picture the more the impact of that picture gets diluted. Take out a short to medium telephoto lens and concentrate on one or two things at a time.

In this case I really liked the colours and action of this chilli seller. I did a couple of things to get the viewer to look where I want them. Firstly I used a long lens just concentrate just on the seller, the chillis and the buyers. Secondly I chose an angle where the sun was hitting the main part of the picture. Your eye tends to gravitate towards the brightest part of the picture so you want to make sure that whatever it is you want to make people look at is bright.

And to really emphasise that I created a natural spotlight effect by looking for an angle where the highlit subjects were surrounded by shadows so the eye wasn't led out of the frame. Was I thinking about all of this while I was photographing? Not consciously, but sub-consciously I was looking through the viewfinder at all the ways I could improve the picture. Walking around left and right until I got an angle that supported the image I saw in my mind.

All around these people are hundred of other people, stalls and goings-on. I zeroed in on this particular person and ignored everything else. They could wait for the next photo.

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