Backgrounds can be used to help fill the frame of your photo and strengthen the composition. You can also use backgrounds to your advantage by making them a part of the story you are trying to tell. You can’t usually leave out the background completely, but you can control it to make a strong composition and direct the viewer’s eye where you want the eye to go.

Let’s take a look at a variety of images so you can see how the effective use of backgrounds has been used to complement the main subject.  Pay close attention where your eye goes first.

Do you notice how the backgrounds help to make the main subject stand out and our eye goes directly to where it should go? – the main subject.

What a great smile this man has. Do you notice how your eye goes to the man’s face straight away? The background with various shades of green works beautifully with the shirtless man. Do you also notice the man is off-centre, he has a bit of space to move and the leading line created by the handle of the shovel?  Very nice composition.

Are they looking at the heavens above or is there a sea monster ready to attack?  We are not quite sure but the woman does have a look of apprehension on her face. She’s not looking happy. The light on the subject’s bodies is beautiful and the blue & aqua background makes not only the people stand out but also the white boat. The eye goes directly to the off-centre subjects. The image is well done with a nice composition.

The rich colours of this photo make it stunning.  I love flowers but don’t usually like photos of flowers. Isn’t that odd?  But, I do like this a lot. The green background is perfect to make the red flower stand out as it should because this is the main subject. The photographer wants our eye to go to the red and mission accomplished.

To achieve an image like this (or the next image below) – keeping the main subject in focus and the background out of focus simply use a shallow depth of field.  This means using a wide lens aperture such as 2.8, 3.5, or even 5.6.  You will also want to zoom in a bit or move closer to your image.  This is a very easy technique and very effective to achieve a strong photo composition.

I especially love this image of the man holding the lighted bulb. What’s really cool is he is the background while his hands and the light bulb are the main subjects. Simple and stunning. The frame is filled as it should be for a simple composition. Well done and a strong photo composition. 

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