One of the key factors that separate the novice photographer from the advanced photographer is the background. Novice photographers just photograph the principal subject and don’t pay attention to the background. This is a huge mistake. Sometimes the photographer is so focused on the subject that they become unaware of the background materials in the photograph and how they affect the subject. Many beginners do not get close enough to their subject and therefore the background becomes as visually important as the subject or even more important than the subject. The background is an important part of any photograph, and in most cases you can control it in various ways.
Be aware of what’s going on in the background. Let’s say you are photographing a baby being held by its mom outdoors on the patio. You can place the mom pretty much anywhere that is safe for her and the baby. Let’s say you have her sitting on a chair. Now, what is going on in the background? Can you see the street? Is there a parking lot behind her? Is there a telephone pole behind her? Does the balcony railing look like it’s going through the mom’s head? Once you learn to pay attention to the background you can then make judgment calls as to whether the background is distracting or not.
In general, background objects should not intersect with the principal subject. The background should blend with the foreground and not become a distraction. In our example of the mom and baby, if there was a telephone pole right behind the mom’s head, or the background was a parking lot littered with garbage, then that would be distracting. In this example, it might be best to have trees in the background, or to place the actual building wall behind the subject. These types of backgrounds don’t draw attention to themselves and so they emphasize the principal subject of the photograph.
An advanced photographer will always be aware of the background. If there are some distracting elements in the scene, the photographer can move distracting objects, change his/her angle, change locations or even shoot a close-up if possible.
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