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Imagine you’re at a fancy steakhouse. And there is fat on the edges of your steak. What are you “supposed” to do? Cut out the fat, and eat the meat.

What is the meat/fat in your photos?

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For me, I eat the fat (and often ask my friends and family members to give me their fat). But for most people, you’re supposed to cut out the fat and throw it away.

Think of the same metaphor for your photography. What is the “meat” of your photograph, and what is the “fat”?

The “meat” is what is interesting in your photograph. It is what has the emotion, excitement, energy, people, and your primary subjects and “happening” in the photo.

The “fat” are the distractions. The “fat” of your photo can be over-lapping figures in the background, cars, telephone wires or poles, white cars, plastic bags, or anything that distracts or takes away from the frame.

Uncover the essence of a scene

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As a photographer, you are more of a visual surgeon than anything else. You’re trying to remove the tumors from the scene. You’re trying to remove the cancer.

Or imagine yourself as a sculptor. You’re trying to carve away the superfluous or unnecessary from the scene — to uncover the beautiful statue within.

Why do we want to add?

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In modern society, we are always so obsessed with addition. We’re trying to do more work, to earn more money, to have more friends, and have more social media followers.

Try to go opposite. Aim to subtract from your life, photography, and whatever. By subtracting the fat from your life, you have more focus on what is really important. And by subtracting the fat from your photos, you give more focus to what is visually-important in your frame.

Assignment: Cut the fat

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When you’re shooting, focus on the edges of the frame, and always try to cut the fat. “Work the scene” — and every time you click, try to remove at least 1 superfluous element — until you’re left with the essence of the scene.

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Learn more techniques

To learn more photography technique, check out Photography 101 >

If you’re interested in specific street photography technique, check out: “15 Street Photography Techniques.”