Have you had this experience? You take the time to pose your subject, get the lighting just right, snap the picture, and then look at it only to find what looks like a tree coming out of the back of aunt Martha's head. The tree is in the background, but due to the way it was shot it still looks like it's coming directly out of her skull. Not good!
Shooting in three dimensions means checking the foreground, your subject, and the background. Remember, the idea is to guide the reader of your photograph to your main subject visually. If you take into consideration what shouldn't be in the photo, or what complicates their ability to immediately find your subject, you will have a better image.
The best way to do this is become familiar with the capability of your lens, but more importantly before you push the shutter button, look through the viewfinder at the foreground, the subject, and the background. Pay attention to objects, color, contrast, and depth of field (blurring in the background and foreground) and put your subject in the best context, light, and color.
|Sierra Mist poses in Nix Herrera exhibit at Nude Nite 2013. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM @ 105 mm, 1/200 sec; f/2.8; ISO 2500|
|Brendy Gutierrez of West Palm chalks a tribute to the Master Leonardo DaVinci. Canon 5D Mark II, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II @16mm, 1/250 sec; f/13; ISO 500, off-camera fill flash camera right|
|Canon 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L @ 100mm , 1/400sec, f7.1, ISO 2000|
Aesthetically the background is possibly more important than the foreground. The background sometimes defines the context as well as guides your viewers eye to your subject. It can also be the most problematic because it is easy to lose your subject in a background. Or, as mentioned above, have background elements (such as a tree branch) disturb the vision of your subject.
|Charlie Crist at the 2013 Kennedy - King Democratic dinner . Canon EOS 5D Mark III , EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM @ 170mm, 1/500 sec; f/3.2; ISO 2500|
Good PR people know about the importance of backgrounds. In the photo above there was no way to get a shot of (former and possibly future Florida Gov.) Charlie Crist addressing this dinner party without getting the American flag in the background. It's hard to know whether they coordinated his shirt and tie to go with it, but it sure looks like the cover photo of a political ad. There was speculation that he might announce his gubernatorial candidacy. He didn't. But the very campaign looking picture was the result.
By the way, editors do not like photo op type photographs. They are just too staged.
|Captain Larry and the Tampa Water Taxi and Shuttle. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM @ 24mm, 1/60 sec; f/4.0; ISO 100|
|Call Me. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @16mm, 1/25 sec; f/2.8; ISO 200|
|Tropicana Field for Creative Loafing Summer Guide 2011. Canon EOS 5D Mark II , EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @16mm. 1/100 sec; f/5.6; ISO 1000|
So, now that you have some experience in shooting photographs, it's time to start thinking more dimensionally. Before you pull the trigger take the time to see what's in the foreground and the background and crop in camera if necessary. If there is no way to crop elements out, give some consideration to using depth of field to take your viewers eye to the subject.
Make this technique a project today. Take a one-hour photo walk and experiment with changing the foreground and the background in your photos by aiming your lens up or down, narrowing or broadening the depth of field by changing your aperture, or moving around until the subject has a background in a foreground that is acceptable. Do your best to isolate the subject and guide your viewers eye. No more trees out of aunt Martha's head!
Keep Hitting That Shutter Button!
Chip Weiner is an acclaimed photojournalist in Tampa.
For information on other Tampa photography classes, digital photography classes, and Tampa photography workshops feel free to call me or look under the Tampa Photography Classes section. I also give private individual lessons on camera operation and making better photographs and would love to work with you one on one to make you a better photographer. Photography instruction gift certificates are also available. They make great gifts for the photo enthusiast in your life. Let's talk about what you need! 813-786-7780. See you in class!