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Our Anonymous Photographer has introduced us to a bleak winter scene. The tree is well-positioned with the road creating a compositional line that leads the viewer into the photograph. It's a beautiful, classic design and the tonalities have been well controlled. However (there's always a 'however'), there are a few distractions around the edges of the frame that take away from the composition's simplicity.

 

Look what happens if we clean up the left edges (using the healing brush quickly and roughly in Photoshop):

 

 

To my eye, this is a lot simpler and cleaner. What about the grass on the right side - should this be removed as well?

 

 

Hmmm. Some viewers might think this is now a little too simple, a little too plain, but we can't really keep the grass where it is because it is so close to the edge of the frame. We could return to the scene and photograph it again with a bit more space to the right, or we could engage Mr Photoshop and move it a little to the left, just to see how it could work:

 

 

That's better! Our aim as photographers is to practice this type of 'seeing' in camera, or at least when shooting the photo, plan to simplify it during post-production. Retaining the grass but moving it to a position of balance keeps the photo's simplicity and now there is a reason for the eye to travel along the road, between the grass and the tree.

 

Request: I am interested in critiquing reader's photographs in this blog - and for a future eBook. The critique will be anonymous (unless you request me to credit you, of course) and will be written with the best of intentions for both the photographer and the wider audience. If you're thick skinned enough to take a little constructive criticism, and are agreeable to me using your photo in both the blog and the eBook, please shoot me through a JPEG, 2000 pixels on the longest edge, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I will be selecting images which allow me to write something of interest, so if your photograph is really good, there's a good chance I won't use it for a critique because there's nothing more to say!

 

And if you're interested in a photography tour/workshop in the next 12 months, I have trips going to Bhutan, New Zealand, Norway (Polar Bears) and Antarctica. Full details on the Better Photography website!

 

Are there any tricks to winning a photography competition? I wish I knew. Rather than aiming for the top prize, I think a better approach should be to have your photograph in the top 20 percent of entries. Why? Because most judges will agree about the bottom 80 percent, but the top 20 percent is up for grabs.

 

The top 20 percent always has the winning images, but which individual image wins can vary on the day. I have had entries of mine score first place in one award and not even be accepted in another, but that is the exception. I usually find that if an image is in the top 20 percent in one competition, it will be in the top twenty percent in most. And once you're into the top 20 percent, then you have a chance of taking out a prize.

 

Photography competitions aren't like a running race because there is an element of subjectivity about the result.

If your photos are special, you have a chance and, to an extent, that is exactly what entering a photography competition is - a chance. You have no control over what the judges like, their opinion about certain subjects or techniques, or what other photographers are entering. All you can do is produce your best work, work that you are personally proud of, and put it up. You have to be in it to win it.

 

Then, sit back and hope the judges take a fancy to your imagery. If nothing else, it is the best learning and growing experience available in photography.

 

The 2017 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Award is now on! Late entries close TODAY 21 August and first prize is a cool $5000 cash. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be handed out and every entry will receive a short comment or suggestion from the judging panel. For more information, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

 

Sometimes we get so caught up with our amazing subject that we forget what sits behind it. Many photos are ruined by busy or inappropriate backgrounds. Sometimes by changing your camera position or moving your subject you can frame your subject against a better background that makes a much stronger photograph. And this is something judges are keenly aware of!

 

When looking through your viewfinder, look at all the elements as shapes and lines, rather than what they really are. How do these shapes and lines interact? Can you keep the shapes and lines of your subject separate from the shapes and lines elsewhere? One way to make the shapes and lines of your background disappear is to focus on your subject and throw the background out of focus. Or in a landscape, maybe you need a higher vantage point to remove the horizon if it is distracting, or get down really low so you just have the sky as the background. Or shoot on a misty day when the background is obscured.

 

When editing your photos, can you darken the background or desaturate the colour so it is less distracting? The background is not as important as your subject, but it can ruin an otherwise wonderful subject if it is not kept under control.

 

The 2017 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Award is now on! Entries close TODAY 15 August 2017 (late entries possible until 21 August) and first prize is a cool $5000 cash. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be handed out and every entry will receive a short comment or suggestion from the judging panel. For more information, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

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