What Do You Have on the Sidelines?
I have what my family euphemistically calls a “busy brain”. You probably know it as ADD, although mine is not officially diagnosed. We did not worry about that kind of thing when I was growing up. This busy brain of mine is yet another reason I am better cut out to be a street photographer rather than say, a bird photographer. Every day is literally a new day in street photography. Never the less, even with the extraordinary range of human beings and their behavior as subjects for a photo, I look for new ways to compose. These days I am all about letting little bits of information stay on the edges of a picture. Let me give you an example.
Here is a photo with two different crops:
The picture that I posted in my Instagram gallery includes the side information. I was heartened by a comment from one viewer who said he liked seeing the smile on the face of the lady on the edge. That is a small detail, but this viewer stayed around looking at the picture long enough to discover that detail. There are some other advantages to this particular sideline information. Generally, odd numbered groups of people are more compositionally pleasing. By including the woman on the side, the picture goes from having two people to three. In addition, there is a little boost to compositional contrast. The inclusion of the woman on the edge highlights three very different age groups, young, middle and old, coming together because of a common love of dogs. Finally, her cane adds another strong line to the composition. I am of a mind that you cannot have too many lines.
I could have been quite happy with the more tightly cropped picture. It has a cleaner look, but it is definitely an n-1 composition. Everything is good but one thing. In this case, the leash line that trails off to parts unknown is very distracting to me. It is certainly possible to take that out in post processing, but that is a lot of work and it raises the question of the authenticity of the street photograph.
Here is another pair of photographs:
My attention was on the expressions of these two fellows who were enjoying a peasant day in Washington Square in NYC. The expressions are interesting in both photos. I took a number of pictures of them and there were several pictures that could have been posted to Instagram. In the end, I was more drawn to their smiles when they saw the dog. It is a body language I definitely relate to. Also, the smiles add a little compositional connection, since they both reacted the same way. It could be argued that leaving the dog out would be a better story builder because the viewer could decide what it was that the two men were looking at. In any case, cropping the dog out was not really an option. There was some amount of comment on this dog when the picture was posted on Instagram. That has value to me.
I am definitely not looking for opportunities to shoot pictures with sideline information, but I no longer immediately delete them as flawed pictures. What used to be a mistake, is sometimes now a prize for me.
For at least one photography shoot, go out with the intention of paying careful attention not only your subject, but also what is in the background and on the edges of the frame.