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Landscape Sin #6: Distracting Junk Near Edge


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This one is particularly deadly because it’s so easy to miss. When I teach landscape photo workshops, we do a class critique of shots from the participants in the workshop (the person who took the image always remains anonymous during the critique, unless we all really love the shot, then they usually stand up and shout, “Hey, I took that!”). Anyway, one thing that always stands out as a spoiler of some otherwise great images is that the image has a distracting element (also known as “distracting junk”) in the photo. It can be a road sign, some seaweed on the beach, an empty beer can, some telephone wires, or quite often it’s a tree branch extending into the photo. I’ve always felt that if it doesn’t add to the photo, it takes away from it. There are three different ways you can deal with this “junk” that creeps into your photos: (1) Compose around it. When you’re shooting, be very aware of what’s in your shot, especially around the edges (we actually refer to this act of checking the outside edges of your frame as “border patrol”). Check all four sides of the frame (top, left side, right side, and bottom) for anything that you’ll wish later wasn’t there, and if you see something, change your composition to eliminate it. (2) Physically remove the distracting element (as long as you’re not a photojournalist). If there’s a beer can, a twig, some trash, etc., pick it up and move it out of the frame (be careful not to damage anything in nature—period!). Or, (3) remove it later in Photoshop or Lightroom, using the Healing Brush tool, the Patch tool, the Clone Stamp tool, or the Spot Removal tool. I’ve done a quick video clip for readers of this book to show you how to use these tools, and you can watch it at

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