Copyright Scott Bourne 2010 - All Rights Reserved

While teaching a field workshop, you’ll often hear me call out to the students – “Backgrounds, Backgrounds, Backgrounds.” Backgrounds matter. And choosing the right background for your subject can mean the difference between success and failure.

You can have a great subject in great light but a poor background will kill the mood.

Take the picture above. You’ll note the smooth background focuses your eye on the bird. There’s nothing behind the bird competing with the bird for your attention. The background also offers contrasting color which also focuses your eye on the bird.

The picture below, taken on the nest is distracting. The tree twigs and mass of different colors compete with the bird for your attention.

Photo Copyright Scott Bourne 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Neither picture is going to win any awards, but the photo on top is much better. The cleaner the background, the better the chance that your photo will be successful. While this is particularly true in wildlife photography, it’s often true in other types of photography.

If you think the background needs to be full of stuff to make the photo sophisticated or cool, you’re missing the mark. Simple is often the best choice.

Whether you agree or not, at least make a conscious effort to scan the background of your image before you press the shutter.

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