I think all of us in any creative outlet are guilty of this but especially us photographers. We all want to get as much in the frame as we can to try and tell the story the best way that we can. But this does not work. We just end up looking at the photographs and being confused or lost, not quite getting the story that we envisioned when we made the image. This is what usually makes the biggest difference between an OK photographer and a GREAT photographer.
One of the tricks to make your photos tell clearer stories is to Subtract Not ADD. This might seem pretty simple when you say it but its one of the hardest things to do inside that square box, at least for me anyway. The trick is to not look at a scene and think “what can I get in the frame to tell my story?” but to think “what can I take out the frame to best tell my story?”. When you first see the scene you know what caught your eye and you know what the main subject is going to be, so don't worry about that so much put the main subject where you want it in the frame and then concentrate and look around that to see what you can take out. Sometimes you might not be able to take it out when you are there shooting so take it out in post. This will definitely improve your images I am sure of it, so give it go?
Look at the edges? This one links to the subtract and not add so I will only go over it breifly but as I mentioned above, don't just look at your subject look around it. But this time I mean look at the far edges of the frame, this is where the biggest mistakes are made. You might have objects cut in half or things poking in or out. These can be a big hindrance on your final image and they can be easily avoided.
I would recommend going for a minimalist approach, if you go in with this mind set you will know that you are going for a very simple and clean looking image. So you will already be looking at removing things from the frame and trying to simplify it. This is a good mind trick because you will only look for simple scenes which will in turn make it easier to compose and frame the image. Thus taking a lot of time, effort and risk out of it for you.
Focus on one subject. Don't try and get a few subjects in your frame. Now this will make your images have less depth to them but to get depth in an image is extremely hard, and if you cant make a simple image with one subject that easily translates the story you wanted it to in the first place then you aren’t ready to move onto making your images more complex. This will just make making photographs very frustrating for you and will have a bad affect on you overall. Keep it simple.
The overall message I am trying to get across here if you have not got it already it’s that making your images more clean, simple and less cluttered will drastically improve the overall look and story telling capabilities of your images. And its not easy but would we be doing this in the first place if it was?
Don’t Follow Paths, Create Them!