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The negative space

Often we spend a lot of time thinking about the subject's composition that we forget about the background – in fact, the background can make or break your image. 

Negative space in your background can bring a sense of balance to your image, it can strengthen composition, it can help draw the eye to the subject and give it more power and add a lot of interest to your shot.

Some photographers refer to the blend of the subject with the negative space as the beautiful "minimalism" in their work.

Understand what are you trying to achieve first

Compose for the background FIRST. The background in your image can quickly reveal your skill level as a photographer.

If your subject and your subject alone is the most important thing you want to convey, then eliminate the background and make it about your subject. Either clear the clutter or use a faster lens to blur the clutter.

Shooting subject in their environment at the other hand is equally as  important as your subject. Then the background becomes part of the story, and adds value to the photo.

There are three types of background:

  1. Tell a story background
  2. Who cares background 
  3. Infinite depth of field landscape background

Who cares background

Tell a story background

Infinite depth of field background. Tell a story of fa lonely house over the hill...

Background general considerations

  • Keep it simple. If the background does not add to the photograph or story, then remove it.
  • In portraits, keep your subject head above the horizon.
  • Create separation between subject and background by placing your subject in different spots of the composition.
  • Watch out for bright spots and specular highlights in the background.
  • Watch out for distracting colors. 
  • Remove distractions (physically or in post processing)
  • Change your angle for better perspective (one step to the left or right is sometimes enough)
  • Blur the background out (open up to f/2.8 and zoom in on your subject, fill the frame)