I can remember watching Chris Packham on TV dismissing photographs because something was out of place, not quite to his liking – a reed in the wrong spot or a minor distraction in the back ground.

What’s more important, I’ve sometimes got home with what I thought was a good shot only to discover something in it that I hadn’t noticed at the time. The highs and lows of a shot can often be the minutiae – ‘the devil is in the detail’.


In this iphone pic, taken quickly at a party in a Midlands hotel, I didn’t notice the ‘stick’ which seems to be protruding out of a woman’s forehead. In this photo its hardly important but it does illustrate the point.



When most people take a photo what do you reckon they’re thinking about – it’s gotta be the main subject, the thing that caused them to wanna take the picture in the first place. Often, they just don’t see the other stuff – as the owner of a ‘Y’ chromosome I know this from experience. Look at these obvious examples – I’m not sure even I would have missed these intrusions – but someone did!











So what do we do? Well it’s not rocket science is it – I would guess you’d know before I say anything – but I’m going to anyway.

First, having decided on your shot and having considered the composition ‘rules’ we’ve mentioned earlier – just pause! Take another look at the your main subject with fresh eyes. Anything there that you don’t want to include? Anything just outside your camera’s field of view that you would like to include?

Of course, if the bull elephant you’re shooting is charging, then the above advice does not really apply. Try not be concerned about the ‘two thirds rule’ or the large bush slightly obscuring your view of the elephant – “oh that’s ok, he’s gone straight through it”. No, in this situation we tend to rely on two different strategies called ‘driving really fast’ and ‘Photoshop’.

Right, so as a consequence of spotting ‘something’ there are a few obvious and ‘easy as pie’ solutions.

In some situations you can move an object around within the image. You can also eliminate an object from the field of view or bring something into the field of view. Clearly in this shot (taken at a Brussels railway station) I could have moved my foot.

On other occasions re-positioning of the camera is the answer as in this one (shot in Devon) with the telephone wire in the top left hand corner 



Sometimes it’s a question of patience as when someone’s shadow is in shot – could be your own as with this one taken at Dungeness.



Or it could be someone else’s.




Ok, lets just look at a few more examples:

As mentioned in a previous voxtip, strong lines, including horizons, can often detract from a photo if inappropriately positioned. Perhaps the ‘cutting a person in half trick’ is the easiest to miss – BUT once I’ve noticed the problem it begins to dominate the image until it becomes unbearable.





In this image I hadn’t appreciated the positioning of the man you can see on the other side of the portable loo.



In this one I hadn’t noticed the lamp-post and then, of course, there’s the girl walking across my field of view. The great thing with digital is that I can look at the resulting image, re-compose and take another shot. (Incidentally you can also see the exaggerated perspective we mentioned in an earlier voxtip as well as a wonky horizon.)

I’ve included the next two shots so that you can compare the effect of a small unnecessary element  in a photograph. The original, unprocessed image  has a street lamp intruding into the image on the right hand side. In the 2nd image this has been edited out. (The 2nd image has also had some exposure, contrast and colour modifications)








So, just a minor re-think can often eliminate these visual hiccups. Don’t be too quick to press the shutter button – just a few moments of extra care can make the difference between a great shot and a wasted opportunity.

Of course, as always, rules are made to be broken – if you want to create an amusing or striking image – then small ‘inappropriate’ details can be just what is needed – it’s up to you.





In this photo the unexpected intrusion of someone’s finger actually made the image interesting.





Finally, just for fun, if you’re gonna compose a shot, make sure everyone concerned is on the ball!




Don’t forget to post your photos, comments and questions on VOXTIPS WINDOW:


“I wish you good shooting.”

Next Friday we’ll be looking at ‘Invite The Viewer In’.










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