March 17, 2011

#11 - Think about the background.

The weird looking wall calling for attention behind your friend. The powerlines cluttering that landscape shot. The tablecloth behind the meal.

Backgrounds. You may not think of ‘em much, but they can make (or break) a great photo.

A good background helps any foreground look a little more fantastic. All you need to do is think about how you’re going to use it.  Three good ideas:

The easiest way to deal with the background is to make sure you shoot against a simple one – that’s one without too many patterns, colour, or mess. Get good at finding neutral backgrounds and your foregrounds will look sharper and smarter.

Pick a good looking one.
I like to take portraits and so I spend a lot of time driving around looking for really great backgrounds. Cinder block alls, great sunsets, fields with electrical towers – anything interesting can become a great looking background (look at this one in last week’s post – really nifty). Take a walk around your neighbourhood and make some mental notes of nifty looking backgrounds – there are lots to choose from.

Blur it out
Blurring the background – photographers call it “depth of field” – can make any image look even better. Best of all, it’s pretty easy to do. If you’re shooting on “P” (you’re shooting on “P” aren’t you?), just adjust the Aperture to the lowest number possible. Take a look in your manual to see how to adjust the settings. We’ll talk more about what Aperture is and how it works in another post. For now, just know that a lower number means more blurring in the background and a higher number means a shaper looking background.

Up next: it’s March break. The kids are bored. Restore sanity. Try out this great family friendly project.

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