Home Photography Tips #3 - Background

April 03, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Sometimes we can be too preoccupied with what's in the foreground that we forget to take notice of what is in the background.  If you take a photo of someone head to toe they will only take up around 20% of the frame, even close ups will only be 50-60%. 

The background can either add to the story of the image or be a distraction so you need to choose how and what to include in it.  If you're taking some holiday snaps of someone outside then of course you want to show where they are.  Carefeully composing and timing your shot can make it look like you had that beach all to yourself. 

For a nice portrait shot you want to eliminate all those distractions from the background so the focus is entirely on them.  This is why photographers will blur out the background for portrait shots or studios have all black or white backgrounds.

Backgrounds

Include -

  • Trees
  • Flowers
  • Blue sky
  • Patterns
  • Water
  • Reflections
  • Mirrors (although don't get yourself in it!)
  • Plain walls
  • Brick walls
  • Wooden walls e.g log cabin

Avoid -

  • Bins
  • Road signs, fire exit signs
  • Lamp posts poking out of someone's head
  • Other people
  • Obscure objects poking into the shot e.g lamp shades, wall frames,

Nature is your friend when it comes to photographing someone outside as the natural elements make for calming backgrounds.  Like the tips for Black & White, look for texture and pattern to add some interest.

This one below was taken in a tunnel at our local playground.  The inside is rippled and I love the way the light hits it causing the curved shapes.

Portrait of boy in tunnel at parkPortrait of boy in tunnel

Prep shots of Groomsmen leaning on wall laughing before weddingGroomsmen leaning on wall laughing

Less is more when inside. Remove any frames from a wall and have someone stand in front of it.  Leave a few feet so the wall can fade away and your attention is on them.  Our picture frame is usually on the wall behind Imogen below but I took it off for the shot.

Portrait of girl in mermaid costumePortrait of girl in mermaid costume

Always focus on the eyes no matter what you are using.  With phones you can touch the screen to get it to focus where you want, most have built-in tracking sensors for eyes anyway.  With DSLR's use the automatic focus and aim for the eyes.  The eyes are the first place someone looks at (unless they're naked!) so make sure they are in focus.

Another angle with a wall is to go parallel to it.  Use the rule of thirds mentioned previously and compose your shot with the person on one side and the wall filling up the rest of it (so more in the foreground).

Female-portrait-profile-reflection-in-windowFemale-portrait-profile

Move the camera around and see what comes in and out of shot and move either yourself or ask your subject to move until you are happy with it.  You'd be surprised what a difference a little side step, camera tilt or pause to wait for that couple to walk out of shot can make.

Baby portrait in park green grassBaby portrait in park

How are you getting on with the tips on Light and Black & White so far?  Is there something specific you'd like to learn about?  Let me know in the comments.

Have a great day x

 

 

 

 

 


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