Sometimes it’s more important what you leave out of the image than what you include. When you’re making an image always look around the viewfinder for anything that might be a distraction. If you are making a photograph of a wildflower, is the telephone pole in the background adding to the photo? Just changing the camera position relative to the subject can remove many distractions.
So what do you do if you cannot work around the distraction? This is where you have to get creative. In the photo below, I considered the trees a distraction but there was no way to remove them from the composition and still keep the reflection in the water. Since I was making a photograph of the sunrise, I simply underexposed the trees turning them into silhouettes and removing them as a distraction. Without detail, the eye ignores the silhouettes and goes straight to the colors in the sky, which is exactly what I wanted.
When you look at the accompanying photograph of a basket of oranges, where does your eye go? Is it to the orange in the front? If your eye landed on that area, it went exactly where I wanted it to go. One of the greatest tools you have available as a photographer is the ability to direct the viewer around and through the image.
How did I know that you would look at the orange up front first? Actually, I didn’t—that was an assumption on my part. I gave your brain a number of visual clues in the image to entice it to think about the image as I do. Let’s look at one of those visual clues. We will look at others in later blog articles.
One of the visual clues I used in this image is selective focusing to create a well-defined focal point. Notice how the orange up front and a little of the table surface underneath is the only part of the image that is in sharp focus? Your eye will instinctively seek the parts of an image that are in focus and your brain places more importance on those areas. If all the oranges were in focus, the viewer’s eye would hop from orange to orange looking for details and most likely confusing them in the process.