There are many ways that we, as photographers, bring focus to the subjects of our photos. We use light and shadow, composition, and focal points. One of my favorite ways of bringing focus to my subjects that isn’t one of those options is to layer found elements of the environment. Layers can be created from all sorts of things. An easy layer in the spring and summer are flowers. In the photo on the right, I lowered the height of the couple by asking them to sit. What this does is immerse them in the flowers and the beautiful yellow hue completely surrounds them. Many people’s first inclination is to get close to the couple so you don’t have all the overgrowth in front of your lens. Instead, I embrace that, step back, and allow some of the overgrowth to be in front of my lens. It blurs out beautifully and helps frame the couple as the most important aspect of the photo.
In this next photo, I used the tall hedges to block out bridal party and family that were on either side of the couple and mingling about. By stepping back and allowing the hedges to act like stage curtains opening on the couple, I’ve created a grand moment, but also one filled with quietness and romance.
When it’s not spring or summertime and I don’t have any flowers to work with, but I was surrounded with greenery. I wanted to really translate that lush feeling with the image. By stepping back and searching for a hole in the greenery, I was able to find the perfect framing. I also like how this really creates a feeling of a “stolen moment”.
Sometimes layering comes out of necessity. In this “First Look” moment, the hotel lobby that we were in was not particularly photogenic at this angle. There were a lot of distracting elements pulling focus from the sweet and genuine moment the couple was having. By stepping to the side and layering the frame with an architectural column, we created a negative space blocks the distractions and doesn’t pull focus from the couple, but instead pushes focus to the couple.
Also indoors, you can keep you eye out for all sorts of interesting holes and cracks in doorways, walls, windows, etc. to use as layers. In this photo, I was in a basement wine cellar. Despite that sounding cool, it wasn’t really. It was dark and it was a bit on the plain side. However, I did see this cool wooden door with a unique window. I thought it would be interesting to frame the couple within the window of the door. Like they’re tucked away in a secret space.
These are just small examples of what you can do with layering. There are all kinds of options. I encourage you to get out and try this technique and post the photos you get on our Photofocus Facebook group, Flickr group, or 500px group. I’d love to see them!