If the number one mistake in post-processing is over-saturation then the number one mistake in camera is putting too much in the scene. This is specific to certain types of photographers more than others and I personally got stuck with this one far longer than most. Like many others I briefly went through the phase of trying landscapes and architecture where wide and expansive shots including all the details are the ones that feature on the likes of National Geographic, but those photographers have been practising their whole lives and know exactly how, when and where to compose the perfect scene with all the elements in their right places creating depth, shade and more. Not only that, but those shots are often very selective and minimal and we only remember them as being packed with wide mountain ranges and huge stretching landscapes because they’ve been carefully crafted to offer elements in the foreground, moving layers or light in the right places to add to the feeling of depth and punch. These are useful artistic concepts that we all learn and apply over our time in photography but while starting out we’re usually doing little more than travelling to a nice spot in the city or countryside and snapping a shot of a particularly nice view of the city from above, or a large valley with woodland, towns or whatever else in there. Because we haven’t learned how to use the light to create layers, or we haven’t taken the time to get low enough and use the street and foreground as leading lines or other creative and skilled techniques we end up with a flatter image with just a lot of different elements. By reducing those elements and composing say one layered part of cliff or mountain, one layered section of parapet of the building with something in the foreground we can create a more unique, interesting and attractive image.
Like anything there are of course exceptions and times when busy and complicated shots are intended. This shot of a community garden right in the middle of Edinburgh city is an example where I simply took a snapshot of what I saw as an interesting typographical kind of shot and later while processing I discovered two people in the shot I hadn’t seen while there, turning it into more of a Where’s Waldo in my mind. Similarly, long stretching city views and mountainscapes are common and often breathtaking but 9 times out of 10 they’re from photographers with years in the field, expensive equipment and a lot of technical ability that newer photographers have yet to learn thus giving them a much lower chance of making mistakes and pulling the viewer into the shot.
Going so far as removing everything from your frame except your subject is another way of creating punch and holding the viewers interest. While you’re new it may feel like you’re missing out on having all these amazing things in your photo and you want to get across the beautiful complex scene and ranges visible to our eyes- but the camera and monitor are different from our eyes and we have to remember to play to our format and unless we’re willing to pay thousands to have our scene printed across an entire wall it’s probably a lot more sensible to focus in one composing part of the scene for more impact. Never forget your final product while taking a shot.