September 2, 2007

B: Backgrounds

How to frame a photo. How to decide what's included...and what's not. Sometimes, people truly overthink what you need for a good background (super nature-y, or very urban, or a really pretty sunset, for example).

What do I look for in a good background?

It either tells the story, or frames the subject...or both. Nothing more.

I have been known to pull over on the side of a road while driving because something makes a good backdrop. You'll never know where you'll find them. The "about me" section of the website features a self-portrait of myself which I love...that I took inside an outhouse. You'd never know though...because the background framed the subject...me! :)

Here's are a few of my favorite ways to improve the background in your images:

Use your feet
Move in closer. Of course, you can always crop by zooming in, but sometimes, you just need to move your feet and get closer to your subject. I love this blank purple wall and how casual she is, there's nothing pulling you into the image. You can tell I was across the street from her (as evidenced by the curb and street), so I used my feet and crossed over to her.


the specs: ISO 400, F/4.5, 1/160 sec.

I rotated her so the planter was now behind her, and asked her to lean up against the wall. By moving my feet and finding a new angle, the photo framed itself with her as the feature.

the specs: ISO 400, F/5, 1/160 sec.

Simplify.
We had sought out this parking lot for the sweet painted wall for Austin's skateboarding shots.
However, seeing Paige and Liz squeezing up together, it only made sense to turn away from the wall (which with its neon colors completely clashed) and focus on the two of them. The backdrop was the concrete parking lot and wall. Perfectly keeps the focus on the two of them.

the specs: ISO 400, F/2.8, 1/500 sec.

Embrace the 'out of place'.
Two things you don't expect to find within feet of each other. A beautiful glass tile wall and a rustic old truck. First...the truck. Austin first saw it, and I took the whole scene in.


the specs: ISO 400, F/4.5, 1/400 sec.

It was too much scene - Austin wasn't the focal point. I walked closer and cropped out the shack of a shed, and focused in on him with the truck as the background. This is what I found:


the specs: ISO 400, F/4.5, 1/400 sec., with a vintage action run over it

That...I loved.

And with the awesome tile wall - just across the alley - the tile as the backdrop with the purple bricks framing Jeannie in. It pulled it all together as she leaned up against it.
the specs: ISO 400, F/4, 1/125 sec

Take in the whole scene.
When not focusing on just one person...sometimes you need to take a step back and take in the whole scene. Last year, at Celebration on the Hill in Washington DC, there were thousands of luminaria around the reflecting pool. Each luminaria glowed with the name of a person who has cancer.

What I wanted was a shot with the luminaria, people reading the names, and the Capitol glowing in the background. For this shot, I set up my tripod (more on that later) and opened the shutter to take in the light. I framed the shot with the luminaria anchoring the scene. There was room for the people on the right (notice the movement of the ones moving their heads as they read, and those who stood silently and didn't move). Here's what I captured:


the specs: ISO 100, F/5.6, 10 sec.

See what you can find by using your feet, simplifying, embracing the out of place, or taking in the whole scene. I'd love to see what you come up with! :)

1 comment:

Brian Iverson said...

As much as I like to take the elevator even if only to go one floor, I am a fan of moving my feet to get a decent picture. One of the things I noticed with the tavelling that I did alone was I ended up with more background than subjects.

As always, great photos. And I am surprised that I noticed the single pink shoelace before I noticed the truck....

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