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Scott Kelby's Photo Recipe: Finding Simplicity in a Busy Outdoor Scene

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In this excerpt from The Digital Photography Book, Part 5, Scott Kelby shows you one trick for simplifying a busy scene.
From the book

The Digital Photography Book Boxed Set Get The Digital Photography Book, Part 5, or order the entire 5-book boxed set, now available.

BEHIND THE SCENES: This was taken in Malmö, Sweden, just across a long bridge linking Copenhagen, Denmark, to Sweden. We made the drive (and paid the most expensive bridge toll of my entire life—I believe it was in the $50 range) to shoot a famous high-rise building that I didn’t know even existed until someone mentioned on Twitter that I should try to shoot it. The building is called the “Turning Torso,” and you can see it in the top left of the image here, climbing up above the shopping/entertainment and living area built up around it along this cute harbor. This wide-angle shot is kind of “snapshotty”—I took it to help me remember what it was like there. But, outside of that, there’s not a lot going on artistically in the image. I’m sure it looks much like everybody else’s shot who was standing right beside me when I took this from the pier.

CAMERA SETTINGS: Same lens as usual—the 28–300mm f/3.5–5.6—and I’m zoomed out as wide as I can go at 28mm. I chose f/11 for my f-stop, so the Turning Torso in the background would be sharp and in focus, just like the condos in the foreground. It’s a bright, sunny day, so my ISO is 200 and my shutter speed is 1/500 of a second.

Final Image

THOUGHT PROCESS: As I walked around the small harbor, I spotted the very modern-looking condo on the far left of the image on the facing page (the one where you see the Turning Torso rising above it). What drew me to find this shot within all that busyness that is the harbor is the fact that I looked up and saw this very clean, very modern, just simple-looking white building against a blue, cloudless sky. The window, and that fact that you see through to the window on the other side, sealed the deal for me that there was a decent shot somewhere. So, I stood in the harbor with my lens zoomed in to 122mm. Not that tight in, but I was fairly close to the building by this time, and I wanted to make sure I left plenty of blue sky to the left of the building. That empty area is called “white space” or “negative space,” and since it’s essentially empty, what it does is draws the viewer’s eye directly toward your subject (in this case, the condo window).

POST-PROCESSING: I added a little Vibrance to the image using the Vibrance slider in Lightroom’s Develop module (or Camera Raw), which made the already blue sky a little bluer. Just drag that slider to the right a little bit and you’re there.

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