Simplicity is a key to get the message across through your compositions, i.e. if you shoot mainly to say something, without any words being spoken. It is a difficult art but can be perfected through practice.
For inspiration check out some of the best works of leading cinematographers and directors from Hollywood and you would understand how they created meaning using camera angles, lighting, and compositions.
But how do you keep things simple? That is the key question. When we look at a scene with our naked eyes we look at points of interest, some of those inspire us to take a picture.
But how do you tell the camera which is your point of interest?
The camera is impartial to anything and everything in front of it. When you press the shutter release it takes a picture of everything in front of it.
These are just some of the ways you can do that:
Use a fixed focal length lens for your camera
These are also known as prime lenses. Sometimes simplicity oozes from the equipment that you use. One of the greatest street photographers ever to have lived and a pioneer of the journalistic approach to photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson used nothing more than a 35mm Leica rangefinder paired with a 50mm lens. The 50mm lens helped him to keep things in the same perspective as the human eye sees them. With a small and inconspicuous 35mm camera he could move about on the streets, getting very close to his subjects and capture them without being revealed.
Another benefit of the 50mm lens was that he had to use his feet most of the time to get the composition right. Nowadays, beginners look at collecting the best possible lens and the best possible camera bodies, when the fact of the matter is they overlook the most important aspect and that is the ‘photographic sense’.
Not cluttering too much in the image.
What you capture through your camera is what the viewer sees in the final image. It is your composition that gives a sense of what you saw to the viewer who was never there to experience it first-hand. As such you owe it to those and to yourself to capture the scene correctly. What you choose to capture is thus of paramount importance.
As Henri Cartier-Bresson explained,
“Pictures, regardless of how they are created and recreated, are intended to be looked at. This brings to the forefront not the technology of imaging, which of course is important, but rather what we might call the eyenology.”