Background Check

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Whenever I create a photograph, I place as much importance on the background as I do on my subject. As meticulous as I may be in composing the perfect subject, the result will not be successful if the background is too bright, has too much in focus, or has distractions that bring the viewer’s eyes away from the key focal point.

Ways to control what the background will look like are determined by lens selection, aperture selection, angle of view, lighting, distance from the subject, among others. One of the simplest ways to control the look of the background is determined by the position of the photographer. Often, a single step to the left or right, or a change in height from standing to kneeling, can account for a completely different looking image.

In the two pictures of the mountain goat, the position of my feet didn’t change. The only thing I did in picture 2 that was different is to get low to the ground for the purpose of having a more pleasing background. Note the position of the legs of the goat along with his stance as they’re the same in both images. My very small shift in height made a very large difference in the outcome of the photo. In image two an additional color was added, more of the goat’s environment was revealed, and the animal’s status was elevated as I’m shooting it at its own level rather than looking down upon it.

Prior to taking any more pictures, study the entire viewfinder. Look to see what’s behind your subject and learn to visualize how that background will be recorded based on what lens you’re using, the aperture at which it’s set, and the position from where you make the photograph. Giving the background equal due and learning how to control it will improve the look of every photograph you create.


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