Back in the day when I led lots of field workshops, my students could often hear me chanting, “background, background, background.”

It was my way of reminding them that the best subject in the world, placed in front of a crappy background, leads to a crappy photo.

If there is one single thing that any photographer can do to improve his or her photography it’s to concentrate more on the background.

Background is always important. It’s so important that when I get to a new photo location, I spend most of my time looking for backgrounds first, subjects second.

The best background is a clean, uncluttered background. No telephone polls or wires, no cars dangling from your subject;s ear, no glaring bright spots and nothing to compete for attention with the subject.

The photo that accompanies this post. The cardinal is shot against a green background of natural forest, bushes and grasses.

Now the trick to making the tall grass a pleasing background was to shoot the shot wide open. I made this exposure at f/4 on my long lens. Note the narrow depth-of-field.

So that’s the trick. Use a large aperture to soften up your background and bring your subject into focus and right before you press the shutter button, double check the frame to make sure nothing clutters the background and steals your subject’s thunder.

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Great post here Scott. If you’re interested (or any of the other readership is), I actually put together some thoughts on the quality of bokeh as it relates to blurred backgrounds a while back. I posted it about a month ago, but the principles still apply today. Info and article here:

    http://www.canonblogger.com/2008/07/07/the-beauty-of-bokeh/

    Nothing like a “nifty fifty” to get those great soft backgrounds! :)

  2. Great post here Scott. If you’re interested (or any of the other readership is), I actually put together some thoughts on the quality of bokeh as it relates to blurred backgrounds a while back. I posted it about a month ago, but the principles still apply today. Info and article here:

    http://www.canonblogger.com/2008/07/07/the-beauty-of-bokeh/

    Nothing like a “nifty fifty” to get those great soft backgrounds! :)

  3. […] recently read a post by Scott Bourne in which he emphasized the importance of considering your background BEFORE you even start […]

  4. […] recently read a post by Scott Bourne in which he emphasized the importance of considering your background BEFORE you even start […]

  5. […] – bookmarked by 3 members originally found by virotek on 2008-12-06 Background, Background, Background – TWIP http://twipphoto.com/archives/882 – bookmarked by 4 members originally found by fmo on 2008-12-06 […]

  6. […] – bookmarked by 3 members originally found by virotek on 2008-12-06 Background, Background, Background – TWIP http://twipphoto.com/archives/882 – bookmarked by 4 members originally found by fmo on 2008-12-06 […]

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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