Photography Basics - Don't Overlook the Background

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When embarking on the adventure of photography, there is one basic element that is often forgotten about or ignored - the background of the picture. Learning how to manipulate the background elements can totally change the emotion of the photograph, and can enhance the story that you are trying to tell. Putting some basic principles into practice can create a much better photograph.

Look at the Background

Before you press the shutter button of your next photo, take a second and check out the background first. Are there any objects or people in your picture that are distracting? Are there any strong or interesting colors that might cause the viewer to look at them instead of the subject? Is there a branch or tree that is placed so it will look like a body part? Get into the habit of making a mental checklist each time you take a picture and you can avoid disappointing photos.

Crop In-Camera

The way in which you frame your image in your camera is an important part of photography. Many bad backgrounds can be avoided altogether simply by framing the picture differently and having the subject take up most of the picture. Don't forget that you really don't need a background with every shot- a background is simply an option that's available to enhance your image. Try to make this decision while shooting and not in the editing room; It is way easier to get it right while taking the picture than fixing it later.


This may sound obvious, but if you find yourself working with a background that is ruining your shot, try changing the position of your subject or the angle of the shot. In just about every case, you can always find a way to avoid a bad background. Changing the angle may also give you a new perspective in helping you find unique and interesting photos you otherwise wouldn't have considered.

Be Resourceful

While studio photographers have long relied on backdrops to help enhance their portraits, there are plenty of incredible opportunities to be found right in the environment. Any time you're taking picture of someone, take a look at the area around you to see if there is anything that will help to enhance the picture. For example, if there is a swing set in the background that might be a detraction, why not seat your subject in it and make it part of the focal point? Think of the background as another part of your photograph that you can change whenever needed.

Depth of Field

When it comes to your background, make sure to be selective of something that will look good. If you think that the background might be distracting, blur it out by using a shallow depth of field. Additionally, people interpret depth of field differently depending on the image, so try to think of ways that manipulating it can tell a more powerful story.

Many photographers spend so much time worrying about capturing their subjects that they completely overlook the background. Ignoring the surroundings might destroy a shot that would otherwise be wonderful, while paying attention to and utilizing those surroundings can make a picture much better. When all is said and done, it is up to the photographer to pay attention to each element in the photograph. If the background is not helping to make the image better, then you need to either fix it or eliminate it. Learning to use backgrounds to your advantage can take a little time, but once you do it will become a natural part of the photo process.


Autumn Lockwood is a writer for Your Picture Frames. Shop online and see our selection of double picture frames in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Visit our website and see our contemporary double picture frames online or call 1-800-780-0699.

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