Syd: Getting rid of clutter

When I look at photographs from mums and dads taking photos of their children or their children’s sports teams they generally look the same. They often look like this:

Typically, one of the kids in the photo is theirs, but often it’s not even the one with the ball. You can hear the conversation now “here’s a photo of my child in the game” – “which one is he/she?” – “the 2nd one from the back behind the 3rd one from the right…” The pictures all look like this because the camera doesn’t do the job of our brain in de-cluttering the scene when we watch a match with our eyes. Our brain does a great job and allows us to subconsciously focus just on the action. However, when we take a picture, the camera records everything. Especially all the clutter.

So, for beginning sports photographers, the first improvement to strive for is to isolate the action. That means composing the photo so that only the action is in the picture. Without all the clutter. Here’s another example, it’s better, but it’s still pretty cluttered. The action is not in the front and there’s a lot of distraction in the photo:

Clearly, the next improvement to strive for is to have the action in the front and get rid of more distraction that’s not part of the action. After lots of practise you’ll be able to shoot only when the action is the only thing left in the picture, the background’s clean and there’s no confusion about what’s going on in the picture. Like this:

This last photo is a keeper. The action is isolated, the background is clean from using a large aperture so that its blurred and out of focus and the action is in focus.

I know you want to ask, so I’ll answer – Yes, I took all these photos. It’s an example of my progression from trying to shoot sports. You can see that in the first two photos I didn’t use a large aperture to isolate the foreground. Both were shot at f5.6 whereas the last photo was f2.8. The first photo was taken from a standing position and the last two was from a much lower position. And the time between the first two photos and the last photo is about four years.

I hope this helps you analyse your own photos and improve on your de-cluttering!

Have fun.

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5 thoughts on “Syd: Getting rid of clutter

  1. Great read Syd.The difference between the first and last is as big as a trip to the moon and back.

  2. Thanks foir sharing this thought. It is a contnuous battle for me (even as a October 2010 Jay Maisel workshop gradute) to remember: move your ass- get closer! Thanks for sharing your thoughts- I enjoy your posts…

  3. Thanks Chris – when did you do the Jay course? I loved it – even for a sports guy.

    Thanks Mike – fixed. Weird,
    Probably the typical caching problem!

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