I have mentioned briefly in other chapters about the importance of looking out for clutter and other unwanted elements that could be lurking in the backgrounds of the scenes and subjects we photograph.
Generally, I find a lot of “happy snappers” are not aware of background gremlins until they see their photos in print or when someone else points them out.
Some of the more common things you might see are light poles or trees protruding from the tops of people’s heads, the clothes line in the backyard displaying Dad‘s Y-fronts or Mum's sexy lingerie for all to see, shiny reflections or coloured objects, or someone with a bright red shirt has just walked into shot as you unknowingly press the shutter.
All this stuff can detract attention away from your main subject or focal point and because this is such an issue, I have decided to do an entire chapter on the subject.
I once viewed a photograph that was taken by a "professional" wedding photographer, of a lovely bride to be, in her wedding gown, in the garden, just prior to being driven off to the church along with her father.
It was a beautiful shot of her, but what instantly drew my attention away, was a red garden hose, snaking its way from the tap, across the lawn, to finish up just behind where she was standing. I don't know for the life of me why this photo was kept or why the photographer did not see it. Perhaps it was the only one of her in the garden or the only one worth keeping. And no other colour stands out more in photography than red - it's food for thought.
Your backgrounds should take just as much consideration as your main subjects themselves, or any other part of the scene for that matter.
Another common mistake made with backgrounds is un-level horizon lines. If you are taking a photo that includes one, make sure it is not only level, but that it doesn’t run across the centre of the frame. This can sometimes cause the image to appear as though it is split in two.
Although it sometimes works well when doing mirrored reflection shots on water. Consider the "Rule Of Thirds". See "Composition Design Part 2"
Every element in an image should act as a feature of the image, and not as a distraction from the main feature.
Another point to remember…in photography think about less being more. Take on a “Minimalist” approach when composing your photos. The less you have in a scene the more emphasis you can put on your main subject/s.
To eliminate unwanted elements from the scene, look at your screen or through the viewfinder and a small step to the left or right or higher or lower angle will easily remove anything you do not wish to include in your shot.
If you want to get rid of any annoying sunny patches, use a black umbrella or your jacket perhaps to shield out the sun.
You can use the zoom to get in closer to your subject. This will also eliminate bright areas and other things you don’t wish to include, whilst enhancing your subject even more. Or simply move your subject to a different area all together - if permissible course.
More advanced users could fit a polarizing filter onto their camera or a Neutral Density (ND) filter, to screen out bright areas. Even a wider aperture setting could be selected to blur out an uninteresting background. If the light factor is important, try even attaching your polarizing sunglasses to the end of your lens. It has been known to work.
So if you are wondering why some of your photos are not as interesting as they could be, it might be that you are not checking your backgrounds thoroughly enough when composing your shots.
Yes, it is food for thought!