In this article I’m gonna discuss about the importance of background in photography composition but before dwell into that let’s just take a look at the definition of background.
- The part of a scene or picture that is farthest from the viewer or the part of a scene that is behind a main figure or object in a photograph.
- A surface or color that is behind or around something.
From the two definitions given above it is clear that background is what is seen behind your main subject and it is something that provides relief for the main subject. It should complement the main subject and not compete it with for attention.
Background is as important to make a successful photograph as the subject and the shooting angle. Backgrounds could make or break a photograph and taking control of the background can help turn a snapshot into a beautiful photo.
Few tips and techniques for getting the perfect background in your photographs
The first step to get better background is to be aware of the importance of background in your photographs. One must constantly remind himself to pay attention to the things behind the subject while during each photography session. After practicing a little for first few sessions you’ll automatically start caring about the background in your unconscious mind. Here are few ideas for better background that can enhance the subject in your photograph.
Whenever you are composing a picture, pay attention to your background as like your main subject and ask yourself some questions like :
- Is it too messy?
- Does the background grab too much attention?
- Is the background too light when compared to the subject?
- Does the background have lines or colors that distract the viewer?
- Does the background have any relation with the main subject of the photograph? Etc.
Questions like these can come up with some really better backgrounds in your photographs. Now that you have the answers to the above questions let us discuss about some techniques for getting better backgrounds.
Choose your background wisely
A creative photographer could easily find many background options for most situations. If the subject could be moved the options are endless and even for subjects that cannot be moved one could try shooting from different angles to get different backgrounds.
For example shooting from a low angle could help you get the sky as the background and shooting from high up could get you the ground as the background.
Simplify the background
Simple uncluttered backgrounds with not many elements or features and very little happening there to attract the visitor’s attention work all the time. When composing your frame, be constantly on the lookout for elements that do not contribute any value to the shot so you can avoid them from your compositions.
Place subjects in FRONT OF open spaces
Placing your subject a long way in front of other objects will also help to make those objects more blurry. For example if you have the choice between shooting your subject standing right in front of a brick wall or standing in front of an open field – the open field shot will have a much more blurred background simply because the brick wall is just centimeters from your subject and inside the focal range whereas an open field stretches off into the distance where everything will be out of focus.
Fill your frame with your subject
One of the most effective ways of removing distractions from backgrounds is to remove the background altogether by totally filling the frame with your subject. Get up close and/or use your zoom lens to tightly frame the shot and you’ll not only remove distractions but could end up with a high impact shot as well.
Change your shooting angle
If you have distracting elements in the background of a shot but can’t move your subject another strategy is to move yourself and shoot from a new angle. This might mean rotating around your subject but could also include getting down low to make the sky the background or even getting up high and shooting down onto your subject to make the background the ground.
Choose backgrounds that are darker than the subject
Human eyes are generally attracted to the area of maximum contrast. There are exceptions to this rule; but having backgrounds that are lighter than the subject will often distract the viewers’ attention from the main subject. In most cases backgrounds that are a stop or too darker than the subject work well as this ensures that the area of maximum contrast will be the main subject.
Blur backgrounds using focal length
Another way to help get your backgrounds nice and blurry is to use a lens with a long focal length. Longer tele-photo does help a little to get narrower depth of field (although the amount is less than many think). In actual fact the impact is smaller than it seems and the main reason for the change is that with a longer focal length the subject actually takes up more space in the frame. Lots of arguments have been had over whether focal length impacts this. I’ll leave it to the experts to discuss the finer points but will say that using longer focal lengths does seem to have some impact and is worth experimenting with.
Blur backgrounds using aperture
One of the most useful things to learn as a way to combat distractions in backgrounds (and foregrounds) is to use the power of your lens to throw the background out of focus using depth of field. What you’re trying to achieve with this technique is a nice blurred background where you can’t really make out what’s going on there.
The easiest way to do this is to use a wide aperture (the smaller the number the wider the aperture). The wider your aperture the more blurry your background should become.
The quickest way to see the impact of this strategy is to switch your camera into aperture priority mode and to take a number of shots at different apertures. Start with an aperture of f/20 and work your way down – one stop at a time. Once you get down to under f/4 you’ll start seeing the background in your shots getting blurrier and blurrier.
Colors, patterns and textures
For best results background should have a complementing and pleasing color scheme in relation to the color of your subject. Avoid clashing colors at all cost; either change location or ask your subject to wear a color that matches the background. The rule of clashing colors is applicable in all cases irrespective of the fact whether the background is out of focus or not. A color wheel could come in handy to find out complimenting colors to that of your subject.
Similarly when using patterns or textures as background avoid patterns that are too bold, too big or of clashing colors, soft and subtle patterns and textures usually work well.
When background is your main subject
In case of landscape photography, where beautiful backgrounds are often the main subject, the rules are a bit different. Here the trick to get most out of any scene is to use a narrow aperture to get both foreground and backgrounds in sharp focus; be aware of electric lines, telephone poles etc. and compose your frame avoiding those which could ruin a perfect scene.
Thank You for reading.
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