Feb 22, 2009

Basic Composition #3 - Background

Back to the basics for a post... One of the most important considerations for your intentional photography is what is going on in the background. Busy backgrounds are subject killers.

This is where photography gets active. Much of the time, your subject will not place itself in front of a nice, clean background. Instead, you have to move the camera.

Here is a progression of photos to demonstrate what I mean.

The set-up... a group of guys practicing a song they will be performing in a church service later. There is a stained-glass window providing some nice light, and lots of clutter.

The snapshot...
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/200, iso320

At this point, I can tell that there is just too much clutter for a nice image. Billy is standing directly in front of that window though, which looks interesting. (of course, I also have to compensate for all of that light in order to get a good exposure on his face)
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/125, iso320

Ok, that is nice, but the glare is just too much!

If you look back at the snapshot, you can see a yellow bulletin board on the left. Big solid color backgrounds are always good... so I walk a few feet to the right to see how that looks.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/160, iso320

Well, ok, but the yellow is just so.... yellow. Having Jimmy in the foreground is nice, some people interaction... this works.

As I stood there, I could see that if I moved all the way past Jimmy to my right, I could capture Billy in front of a dark wood door. That looked very promising.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/320, iso320

Now that is what I like.. unique looking light, no distractions, just a nice shot. The only thing left to do was wait for a nice facial expression or look...
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/320, iso320

OK, now I'm a happy camper.

As you can see, the photographic results from the exact same shooting situation can really vary. The key ingredient is actively looking for ways to improve the photo, and making the effort to move around and take lots of shots to find out what really looks good.

Here is one more of BK at the piano, same light from the window, but converted to black and white.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/200, iso320

Have a great week, and make lots of pictures!

don j

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