One Step to Simplify Photo Composition

Sign in
Duration:   3:44   mins

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why can’t my photo composition look like the professional’s who photographed this same area?” In this free video lesson, Outdoor Photography Guide’s professional photographer David Johnston narrows the focus of photo composition to help you understand how to capture better images.

One of the fastest ways to get better images is to simplify your composition. David explains that too many inexperienced shooters forget to feature the prominent subject in a scene. A while back, David spent a week in Grand Teton National Park. He was trying to get the ideal image of the Teton mountain range. How did he do that? He simplified his photo composition. Discovering a spectacular scene foregrounded by a fence, valley, and woods and with the Tetons as background, David captured a nice composition.

Soon after, he realized his image lacked simplicity. No central focus point. It dawned on him that the main subject of his image was the mountains. He reframed the scene excluding the fence and leaving only the valley, trees and mountains. It still did not work. On his third photo composition, he included only the mountain face covered in sheer fog. Beautiful simplicity. Now only the mountains filled the entire frame.

Next, David made a wide angle photograph of a tree root system. An acceptable composition, but when he explored further, he noticed mushrooms growing out of the roots. He reframed his shot and captured the mushrooms in a mossy green field. David believes that too many photographers quickly capture a scene and move on. If you take your time and narrow your focus to feature the main subject, you will be satisfied with your final composition.

Check out more videos from Outdoor Photography Guide’s professional nature photographer David Johnston for creative ideas on improving your approach to the ideal photo composition.

Make a comment
  • (will not be published)

3 Responses to “One Step to Simplify Photo Composition”


    But aren’t photographers supposed to show a foreground, a middle ground and a background in a landscape photo? By cutting out the fence and the valley, all we get is the background. Seems to me that with the fence in there, the mountains are still majestic enough to stand out as the subject.

  2. scott french

    I love the ideas presented here about simplifying the subject. What I am having problems with is knowing what metering mode, and where to focus in the scene to get a good shot. I know that I should focus 1/3 of the way into the scene but would love more info on how to get these shots. Thank you in advance,

    • Customer Service

      Hi Scott,
      Here is what our expert had to say:

      The photographer in the presentation is not available at this time. That being the case we cannot provide you with the specific information you requested. Whenever you are in doubt about exposure, simply bracket shoot a few frames over and under the meter and you’ll be fine, particularly if you are shooting RAW (always recommended).
      The same is true with focus, shift it in and out and see what works better for your needs and taste.
      Note: these lessons are just a starting point for you to build on for your creativity and personal style, this is not about you following exactly how the instructors present.
      Play around, have fun with it, you’ll have good results and sometimes bad results, that’s the way it works.

      Happy Shooting!

      Outdoor Photography Guide Video Membership

Get exclusive premium content! Sign up for a membership now!