Here is a simple image of a simple subject by a simple photographer. That’s not a put-down, simplicity is a virtue. I’m not a big believer in applying rules to photography, but one “rule” I learned early on is to keep things simple, and it continues to serve me well.
When I refer to simplicity, what I really mean is keeping compositions simple. The reason I put the word “rule” in quotation marks is because, really, I don’t think of simplicity as being a rule. After all, what does it mean to be simple? Unlike, say, the rule of thirds, or the rule against putting a horizon line in the middle of the frame, there’s really no rote, mechanical way to apply the “rule” of simplicity.
Instead, simplicity is a fluid concept that adapts to the subject matter and circumstances in which I am photographing. For example, simplicity really isn’t about how much detail there is in a subject: here, there’s a fair amount of detail in the branches of the trees, the clouds in the sky, and the grasses on the ground. It also isn’t about the number of elements in the frame: here, there are at least four – the trees, the sky, the ground, and the road – and any number of components of those. Moreover, simplicity also is not the same as minimalism: while most minimal photographs probably are simple, a photograph can be simple without being minimal.
I suppose for me, simplicity is the absence of unnecessary complexity. This image, for example, eliminates the fence that was just out of the frame to the right, the house that was just out of the frame to the left, the pastures and trees that were just over the rise in the road, and the mountains in the distance that were behind that. It’s not that any of these elements weren’t photogenic, it’s just that they weren’t necessary for this image. They would have introduced unnecessary complexity into the composition.
The title of this image is “Bend in the Road.” Again, simple.