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Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: Week #4 Simplicity

banner-compose-yourself-challengeCee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge (CCY) will be a combination weekly “tips and tricks” combined with a photo challenge.  

To find out who was awarded the Gold Star Award and Features for this week, please see  CCY Week 3 – Gold Star Award and Features (What All Well-Composted Photos have in Common).

To find out more how to enter this challenge check CCY Home page.

This week’s CCY Theme is Simplicity.


If you think that photographing simplicity is easy, think again.  Simplicity seems easy, but it really isn’t.

Most people, especially people who are just starting out in photography, try to put as much into their photo as possible.  They want to tell a story, but in their zeal they capture too much and give us so much information that we lose the main point.  Putting too much in a picture is the most common mistake a photographer can make.

101915ccy swanIn this lesson I want to go to the opposite extreme.  The use of void spaces in a photograph can be extremely powerful. Void space is usually a neutral color, or black or white, used in the background.  Use your background to make your subject stand out.  This goose photo for instance has a rather dark neutral colored background. The dark space around the swan really makes him stand out quite nicely.

Simplicity in photography usually means one object that doesn’t take up more than 1/4 of your photo, or one texture.   Some things that can give you a great sense of simplicity, like reflections and shadows, don’t even show the object.  They hint at what is really there and let your mind fill in the blanks.

Since I specialize in macro photography, you might think that my photos all reflect simplicity, but that is far from the truth.  A macro of a flower takes up the full frame and shows off the intricate, mind-boggling geometric detail and incredible color work in a flower.  It’s anything but simple.

101915ccyHere is an example of a simple flower photograph.  The tight bud of the flower only hints at what is to come as sunny days bring it to bloom.  I used bokeh (keeping the background deliberately out of focus) to highlight my ranculus bud.  I should probably take down the brightness of the background a little as that sunny patch to the right of the bud is a little distracting, but I’m showing unaltered shots to help you think about your own photos.

I really don’t care if your photo is well balanced at this point. Just get used to seeing things very simply.  It will help you develop more of a photographic eye.  If you have more than one subject, move, change a new subject, take something away.

Turning a photo into black and white can sometimes simplify or tone down your background.  Another thing to try is cropping your photo to cut out more of the noise.  The objective of capturing simplicity is to pare your subject down to just one thing, then present it in a way that is dramatic or that tells a story.

Your Turn

Show us 4 to 6 photos that you have taken that are extremely simple.  Show us your uncropped and unedited versions.  Sharpening and saturation is allowed.

Extra credit for Gold Star Award

Cropping: show us one before and after cropped simplicity photo.  Color vs. B&W: show us the same photo one color and one black and white photo.

For those who don’t have cropping capabilities or the ability to change a photo into black and white, just mention it in your post and you will still be considered for the bonus round.

Current Series – Basic Photo Composition

The Next Series – All About Lines

  • Week #5 Leading Lines
  • Week #6 Horizontal Lines
  • Week #7 Vertical Lines
  • Week #8 Diagonal Lines

My Entry for the Week

For galleries, click on any photo to see larger size.

My Extra-Credit Photos

Here is my Color vs. Black and White

Here is my cropped and uncropped versions.

Qi (energy) hugs


77 replies »

  1. This is a great lesson for my iPhoto class because new students do tend to over do it and this works best with the limits of smart phone cameras.
    You are my co-teachers


  2. Cee, this is the first time I’ve headed over to see what this challenge is all about. Great learning opportunity and you present your lesson simply and clearly.



  3. I find photos with this kind of simplicity so appealing but they’re definitely not easy. I find it hard to overcome the tendency to fill the frame with the subject and I often kick myself later for not backing up a little bit and allowing some empty space. This challenge will provide me with some much-needed practice on this subject. Thank you! I love the sky in the photo of that pyramidal roof!


  4. whoops I just read the task properly and have not quite got it right for my initial post! If it is okay I have another series of photos that fulfill the task as it was meant to be so will post them. Note to oneself think before posting!!!!!


  5. These are stunning photos Cee. I’ve not done a CCY challenge yet, but I’d like to dig into this one. Looking forward to it.


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