When I took this photo of some brush and brain rock in White Pocket, Arizona, the sun had just risen and each minute that elapsed afterward began adding more and more harsh light to my scene. Time was of the essence. My job as a photographer is to maximize this fleeting time to find a photo that looks good while finessing my camera and lens to compose it accordingly. When I took this photo, I didn’t allow myself to chimp for more than a second, just long enough to ensure a proper exposure, before trying out something else.

Later, when I analyzed the photo in greater detail, I realized that my choice of framing introduced tension with the primary focus point: the brush. I cleaned up and processed the image but kept the tension intact for illustration purposes. When you look at the bottom of the frame, do you get a sense of unease over the proximity of those three little bushes to the edge? What about with that hard shadow on the lower left corner of the frame? That uneasy feeling is a result of tension that’s introduced when key and high-contrast elements are either in very close proximity or intersect with the edges of your frame.

So here are some basic photo tips to avoid tension with your photos. An obvious solution would have been for me to either zoom out or take a few steps back to allow for more breathing room. Another modern solution would have been to simply clone out the offending areas or even to expand the canvas and see how well Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill would work to fill in the gaps.

Above all else, I recommend practicing PIRL (Photoshop In Real Life) or getting it right in camera. I can’t stress enough the importance of training yourself to scan all four corners of your frame before you trip the shutter. Make sure your edges are clear of any distracting elements and that you afford enough space between any key focus points and the edge. Making this part of your standard behind-the-camera workflow will have a huge impact in establishing more thoughtful and effective framing of your photos.