We have heard this advice again and again in our life, but things are more “complicated” in reality than it supposed to be in books, movies or in any fictional representations of our day to day. Human behaviors are complex beasts to comprehend even for the most philosophic people. Because in fact life is a complex thing compose with an overwhelming number of different elements that seem to contradict themselves continuously over time and places.
So “Keep it simple” can be nice to say if you intend to relieve yourself or others from some tension but it is another affair when you try to apply it because it involves subtracting a lot of “disturbing” factors of the equation. The same remark can be applied in photography. You may be seduced by a certain context or composition but after taking the picture it happens that too many “foreign” and “none invited” objects are clothing the main subject and distracting the looker from the basic message of the image memorized.
In some aspects “Keep it simple” is easier to apply. For example, it is better for us, for our wallet and for our creativity to bring less photo gear and use the ones selected more intensively with a better understanding. In doing so we can better apprehend our subject and work with it.
I can apply the same motto for the technical aspects of our photography. The basic parameters (File format, monochrome or colors rendition, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, focus) can be mostly selected at first and then you can focus yourself on the final image composition and exact picture taking moment. So, there is a kind of preliminary routine to master before your actual photo shooting that will prevent you to be overwhelmed by the technical process of it. Many professionals use to work with the same formulas for their commercial or artistic production.
More important is to identify your main subject of attention and extract it from the disturbing elements of its surrounding. It can be done by eliminating them or by simply reducing them. For example, a main subject will be prioritized by being close to you if you are using a wide-angle lens. For their part the telephoto lenses have already the ability to isolate the subject and blurry its surrounding by the effect of a shallowed deep of field. Panning a moving subject can extract it from its detailed context. So, there are many ways to isolate and to enhance your subject.
“Keep it simple” apply also for your entire photo project. It is far easier to plan a photo session with less different picture assignations and concentrate our attention on variations of the same subject cooping on different angles of view or moments of picture taking expression. Specialize yourself with one or few specific photo approaches that will definite your style or your signature. All that will participate to your personal progression as a creative photographer.
One of the most difficult things about the “Keep it simple” philosophy is to be able to subtract ourselves from others influences and personal agendas (often unrevealed but clearly present). There is their way of doing things but the more important there is your own way that is ought to be protected and cherished.