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Composition is a Process of Subtraction

By Chris Corradino on July 28, 2015


The New York Institute of Photography is the world’s largest online photography school, and because we are, we often publish fun and useful photography tips. Please enjoy!

Composition is a Process of Subtraction

Painters work by continually applying brush strokes until their piece is complete. This additive process is actually quite different from how photographers compose images. Through the lens, we're tasked to remove any unnecessary elements in order to best express our vision. This method of subtraction is can seem counterintuitive at first. Yet, as Paulo Coelho said, "Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be."

Check all four corners of the frame carefully. Anything that does not work towards emphasizing the chosen subject should be eliminated. The goal is to create a clean frame as opposed to visual clutter.

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About the Author

Chris Corradino is the head of the photography mentor program at NYIP. Just like all of our mentors, he is also a professional photographer. See Chris’s photography lesson from last week for more.