Be careful with your edges

by Nick Kelsh

posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 10:39 AM EST

I once heard a great photographer described as having the “best edges in the business.” Photography teachers don’t mention edges much—it’s hard enough to get amateur photographers to concentrate on what’s happening in the center of the frame, much less in the hinterlands. But when you’ve created beautiful edges, you’ve protected and reinforced what’s happening in the middle— it’s a complete package.

Great edges hold things up—they’re a foundation. They’re defending the things you love so you have no choice. If you let the edges fall apart you have presented your viewer with distractions. Too many distractions, if I failed to mention it, and you have a photographic train wreck on your hands.

When his head hits the top of the frame the visual tension that’s created reduces the photograph’s impact—impact, bad word in this case—and distracts us from this arguably delightful and definitely bad parenting moment.

Here’s my in-or-out-in-or-out rule: MAKE UP YOUR MIND. BE DECISIVE. There’s no such thing as good photographic wishy-washiness.

Any line going directly into a corner is going to cause you problems. A simple crop—as in the picture on the right—to nudge that line up the side a bit makes an ironically subtle and, yet, significant difference. It really is the little things that make a difference.

Something that makes the viewer wonder if the photographer couldn’t make up his or her mind whether or not it should be in the photograph probably shouldn’t be in the picture.