How to Have a Picture Perfect Background

A stunning image does not mean making sure that only your subject looks great but also ensuring that your background is contributing to your shot. Many a shot has been ruined because of distracting backgrounds.

Common background faux pas:

• Branches or poles sticking out of people's heads – we've all taken a shot like this at one time or another. In the picture, our friend is smiling sweetly at the camera, the light is shining on her face, making it glow. Everything looks perfect and then you notice something awful. There seems to be a tree branch growing at the top of her head.

• Distracting focus of attention – Have you seen or taken pictures where there seems to be something going behind your subject and you can't help but stare at it? There are thousands of group shots where friends or colleagues are shown gathered together in front of the camera, unaware that behind them is a person making faces and spoiling the shot.

• Competing Elements – if the background looks very similar to your subject, as a result your subject would appear to blend in with the background. If you want to take a picture of some pretty leaves and behind it are more leaves that look alike, your subject no longer stands out in the shot and will no longer be of any interest.

How to avoid background mistakes:

• Move the subject to another spot – while you are composing your shot, if you see that your subject's head is aligned to a telephone pole or a branch, just ask him or her to move to one side. A simple small movement of the subject is usually enough to solve the problem of protruding objects.

• Use open spaces as your background – this is an effective way to avoid distracting backgrounds. Take advantage of empty fields and parking lots. Since there are no buildings or crowds of people, there is much less chance that your subject will have to compete with something in the background. If you want to shoot a subject against an open expanse of sky, one trick is to change the angle of your camera. Bend a little lower than the subject so that the camera is tilted up and is capturing more sky than land in the background.

• Blur your background – one way to achieve this is to use a lens with a long focal length so that the subject takes up more space in the shot. Another way is to make your aperture big. A 2.7 aperture size gives a narrow depth of field, making your subject stay sharp while the background is out of focus.

• Create your background – you can make backdrops such as those used in studio shots and use them at an outdoor location. A simple white sheet or some large colored cards can be used as a background for portrait shots.

• Post process – if your image has certain distracting background elements, they can be fixed depending on your photo editing skills (which is another good reason why it's best to try to get everything right in-camera). You can remove distracting elements, blur the background, and alter the background in different ways to make it enhance the subject instead of take away from it.

All good photographers know that the background is just as important as the subject in making an eye-catching image. Always be aware of how your background looks as you position your subject in your shots. This could be the difference between a snapshot and a great photograph.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 5:28 pm and is filed under Articles, Composition, Photography Techniques, Photography Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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