On your way to great images, you’ll need to overcome a lot of obstacles. You can instead think of it as doing the right things. But what is right and what is wrong can be a subjective thing in photography. So at the risk of appearing negative, I like to think of it as avoiding those things that keep you from capturing pictures you can be proud of.
Last Friday was all about finding the right subject, one you find interesting. But you can’t discuss subjects in photography without mentioning backgrounds. So that is what this week’s topic is.
FINDING SUITABLE BACKGROUNDS
If your background is in decent focus it needs to be interesting as well. It needs to support not clash with or overwhelm your subject. As long as you’re using a small aperture with good depth of field, thus emphasizing the background as much as the foreground and subject, try always to think about how the two complement each other. If they clash make sure they contrast with each other, make sure they do it in the right way.
For example, a soft and beautiful model against a gritty industrial background, while a bit cliche, is the right kind of contrast. It adds interest. Conversely, there’s not much point in shooting an interesting subject/foreground with a boring, in-focus background (or vice versa). In that case you’d want to use a large aperture and put the background out of focus.
And there are cases where you may want something in between. In the image below, the jars of miel (honey) are dominant, but the honey-sellers playing cards are in partial focus in order to give them an important but still subordinate role.
As another example, let’s take night photography, starscapes in particular. Many people (including me) have photographed the Milky Way as background for many different subjects. I’ve gotten away from that in favor of more subtle star fields, where foreground subjects have most of the attention.
Super high ISOs are used to make the Milky Way appear very bright & detailed. For me that’s usually too much brightness & detail to work as a proper background. Of course that doesn’t stop hoards of photographers from going out and replicating images they’ve seen. I still shoot the galaxy occasionally. But I usually strive to make it appear much as it does to the naked eye, in order to work as a good supporting background.