Compose the background first

When composing for outdoor portrait with friends and family or even for a client, or when you are shooting close-ups on flowers and insepcts, take the time to remove any distraction from the background. People tend to forget that crucial advice when they shoot their subjects because they will be concentrating and focusing on the subject and the pose. When the pressure is on to take a good photo, it can be easy to forget the background. But don’t. Uncluttered backgrounds will improve your photos whereas cluttered backgrounds will ruin the shot.

Having a good scan around the viewfinder before you press the shutter release is an easy remedy for obvious distractions, such as electricity poles sticking out of your subject’s head. Avoid strong reflections or rays of sunlight that create burned out areas in the photo. Bright streetlights in your night pictures can ruin your backgrounds too. Strong primary colors in the background can be just as distracting as a branch coming out of someone’s nose. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the vibrancy of strong colors the same way we are drawn towards highlights.

Clear sky behind the subject and shot upwards with a wide aperture of f/5.6

So think background first then bring in your subject. When you are shooting a family portrait, for example in your garden, think about your background first. Chose an angle that avoids distractions. Try getting lower than the eye level and shoot upwards. The sky makes a perfect background. But sometimes you don’t have the luxury of trying different angle, so fill the frame to remove out any unwanted distractions.

And when that family group portrait is done, and you turn out now to shoot close-up on flowers, remember that attention to details cam make the difference between a good shot and a “that’s-what-I-am-talking-about” shot. Find the right composition, shoot from different angle, and don’t forget that you can move or remove distracting elements like dead foliage or other distracting elements. Removing one leaf can transform a photo.


Excessive leafs and foliage removed to simplify the background