BACKGROUNDS – Photography Tip #4


When shooting flowers, insects, and even people, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in what your subject is doing without paying much attention to what might be happening in the background.  Since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reposition your subject, the only way to change the background is to change your position.  Often, something as simple as getting lower or shooting from a different direction can make all the difference.

The best background for close-up photography is a blurred background.  When you blur the background, your subject is the one and only place your eye will focus.  To obtain this, shoot using a long focal length (100 mm or greater) and a wide aperture opening (like f/2.8).  Also, look for contrasting textures and colors to lift your subjects from their surroundings.

In the following photographs, I posted examples first without blurred backgrounds, then with blurred backgrounds.  I think you’ll agree, the blurred background is better.

Honestly, I hesitate to post some of these shots because it’s obvious that I was more concerned with my subject than with the background.  It’s easy to lose yourself in what you’re photographing.

A beautiful sunflower is lost to the clarity of the background.  The eye is confused.  Do I focus on the yellow?  Do I focus on the green?  If you pay attention to what your eyes are doing, I think you’ll understand what I’m saying.

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But here, the Naked Coral Tree bloom pops with vibrant color, created by the blur of the contrasting background.  Your eye knows exactly where to go.  Your focus is drawn to the bloom – and it never leaves.

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With insects, it seems even easier to become distracted by their activity.  In the beginning, I was so excited at the opportunity to shoot a close-up – I paid no attention at all to what was happening in the background.

A great close-up of a lady bug, but the background is so busy the viewer loses the focal point of the shot – the insect simply blends into the background.  This is never good.

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But with this photo, your eye is drawn to the activity of the bee without any distraction.

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This butterfly seems to blend in with the flower because everything has relatively identical focal points.  With no attention given to the background, your eye isn’t sure where to go.

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However in this photo, your eye is immediately drawn to the butterfly.  There is no confusion as to the focal point of the shot.

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Possibly the most difficult subjects are people, especially children.  When I’m shooting my grandchildren, I really have to think about what I’m doing.  Frankly, they’re just so cute and I’m working so hard to get just the right expression…when those expressions appear (and believe me, they will – but they don’t last very long), I have to act fast – sometimes leaving the background to fend for itself.  That never works!

Here’s a great shot of my granddaughter.  But as you can see, the background detracts from Elli because it’s competing with her expression.  Your eye is drawn to the color and texture of the chair.  Even though you may look at the subject first – immediately after you will notice the chair, and your subject is lost in that moment of distraction.  Did you pay attention?  Is that how your eyes reacted?

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This is an extremely good example of how a blurred background can make your subject the focal point.  Here is a picture of  Elli that demands your attention.  Even though she isn’t facing the camera and the background is a similar rather than contrasting color, still…the image captures your eye.  Because the background is just that – background, the subject pops…even though in a profile position.

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Here’s one of my absolute favorite photos of my granddaughter, Emma!  This was her first time to paint her fingernails…all by herself!  The expression – perfect!  The position of her hand – perfect!  The background…uh-oh!  As fantastic as Emma is in this picture, the background is a distraction.  And when the background becomes a distraction, everything else is diminished.  Sure, I still love the photo.  But, it could have been so much better.

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I think I saved the best for last!  This shot is priceless!  The expression – priceless!  The composition – priceless!  The background – well, it’s background – priceless!

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When you watch your background, the results can be astounding!

All photography is original and falls under the protection and copyright of this blog


~ by photographyfree4all on June 24, 2010.

4 Responses to “BACKGROUNDS – Photography Tip #4”

  1. Wow! You’re posting more often. I like that! Your pictures are very good. You seem to have a “feel” for great composition. I’ll be back to see your photos often.



  2. At first I didn’t think blurring the background would make much difference, but I can see that it does make the focal point “pop” so much more. I also like the photos taken with the new camera better than your first camera. Just my opinion.


  3. The information you provide is very good and interesting, thanks.


  4. Really nice pictures. I simply adore the lady bug one. It’s so pretty.


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