Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Importance of Background

Way too much background clutter - Too many
things competing against my main subject - Not
a good example of an effective background
She was a talented young lady performing at Bowling Green's International Festival and I found myself taking a number of photographs during her performance that year. The light was bad...but I wasn't too concerned. These were just fun shots after all, so I did not take into account many of the things I would ordinarily look for. Later, after I had downloaded the images, I came across that series and right away realized I had made some really bad photographic mistakes...the worst being not paying attention to the background. Although the photographs were not terrible, it was obvious to me that the clutter scattered across the background had all but ruined the images. Oddly enough, I've used some of those images in workshops as examples of what not to do.

Much stronger background Isolates
subject and works with the story
Not staying alert to the background is one of the prime ways to ruin your photographs. This is most readily evident with people shots, but it also applies to all kinds of photography, such as wildlife, nature, and studies of shape and form. Background is important because almost every effective image requires an effective background and every image that is successful often owes that success to the effective use of background. It is rare that the two are not connected.

An effective background works by helping to isolate your main subject...yet at the same time it provides a sense of depth and connection to the story of the image. Backgrounds do not have to be something that is recognizable. Actually, they probably work best when it is not, but they do need to blend well with the subject. What you do not want is a background that competes with your subject.

Light background enhances the darker subject
Backgrounds can relate to the subject, or they can provide a contrast. Often it is how the color is distributed across it that influences the eventual outcome of the image.  Not all backgrounds need to be blurred blobs of out of focus color, they can be crisp and solid...but they must in both cases...complement your main subject.

Receding backgrounds with angles of light often
generate a wonderful sense of place and depth
What I look for in an effective background is something that will help to isolate yet provide a sense of place for my subject. Many times simply moving to the right or left a step or so will position my subject in such a way as to take better advantage of how the light plays across the field of view. A simple change of perspective will also make better use of framing. I also like to play against contrasts...something like dark against a light background...or light against a dark background. Color use is also important, and contrasts of color will often generate a vibration that is very catchy and powerful.

Sometimes, location dictates the background. Even so, by first thinking about how to use that location to give your image a sense of place, you may find yourself moving, bending, twisting, kneeling, or even climbing higher to position your subject against a background that works to bring out the characteristics you are looking for.

As I have said many times, there is more to photography that taking pictures. So when photographing your subjects...don't just concentrate solely on the main subject...think about placing your subject within the context of the environment and use the background to enhance and bring interest and strength to your composition.


1 comment:

joy said...

Thanks for the tips:)