BE AWARE OF YOUR BACKGROUND.
How often have you taken a photo and looked at it later only to be distracted by the overwhelming background, or worse still, noticed a branch or pole poking out of someone's head? I'll admit that in the heat of the moment and rush to get some photos I have fallen into this trap too. I am so focussed on my subject that I missed that random distracting object in the background of my photo. Fortunately I recognise this moment pretty quickly and move my subject or myself to alter the shot slightly, but it can happen to the best of us from time to time.
Note the branch from the tree in the background. Though depth of field has saved the branch from being too distracting, once your eye is drawn to it you can't seem to NOT notice it.
It is also worth mentioning that there are times a 'busy' background can enhance the overall interest in a picture, for example a painting on a wall, graffiti art or even a brick wall or brushy hedge. This is where depth of field really comes in to play. If you have a digital SLR you can alter your aperture to a small f-stop to blur out the background while focussing on your subject making them crisp and sharp in order to detract from the detail in the background.
This shows how by simply changing perspective the background can alter entirely. Though the leaves on the ground could be slightly distracting they compliment the subject and add the seasonal feel to the image.
If you are restricted by a 'point and shoot' all auto camera this is when you need to think a little more clearly about what's in the rear of your image. It may be possible to move your subject away from the detailed backdrop and therefore focus your camera on the subject and it will compensate automatically, blurring the background slightly. If your camera allows it maybe move in closer to eliminate your background altogether if this is not an option. It can really come down to what your camera will allow you to do, though it does seem that more and more people have some form of digital SLR these days, even if it's a basic entry model which will still give you much more control over the construction of your images.
Of course there are times when you're wanting to have detail and clarity in the entire image. For example when you're posing the family in front of a landmark on holiday etc... This is when you just need to be aware of writing or poles behind people that may distract what you're trying to achieve. This type of photograph could be the subject of another tip altogether, but bare in mind that you don't need to pose the family dead center, leaning on the landmark etc. I will follow this up in another tip session.
This is an example of having the background actually add to the image. While it could have been distracting, the placement and framing of the subjects within the image the background actually adds interest.
- Bare in mind the entire image on your view finder/camera display.
- Move your subject or yourself to eliminate a distracting pole or branch etc.
- Use a small f-stop (depth of field) focussing on the subject to detract from a detailed background.