Finding decent backgrounds……..

“Photography is all about light, composition, and two-dimensional thinking”


I’ve mentioned that phrase before in earlier blog posts.  It’s a phrase that I learned years ago from someone who taught me the majority of what I know about photography.  That phrase is what I live by when I have a camera in my hand.  If you keep that phrase in mind when you’re shooting pictures and you apply it, I guarantee your photography will improve.  One of the confusing parts of that phrase is “two-dimensional thinking”.  What exactly does that mean?  When we walk around in our day-to-day activities, we live in a three-dimensional world.  The minute you pick up a camera and hit that shutter button, that three-dimensional world gets mashed down into a two-dimensional image.  You have to wrap your head around that and think in those terms if you ever want to be able to properly translate an image you may see in your head to an image you reproduce in your camera.  You have to think in terms of the two-dimensional output your camera will produce.  Get ready, because I’m about to really make things complicated, but I promise it’ll all make sense in the end.

Recently, I’ve been talking about how important it is to know your gear.  It’s SUPER important to know your gear.  For example, when you look at a lens, you should know what kind of image that lens will produce before you even attach it to your camera.  I know that when I pick up a 24mm lens, it will produce an image with a great amount of depth and a wide point of view.  A 50mm lens will produce an image that is really close to what the natural eye sees (except it will be in two-dimensions, of course).  A 200mm lens will compress the background and appear to pull it closer to my subject.  This info is really important when finding a decent background.  When I’m doing a portrait shoot, I make decisions about my background FIRST, then position and pose the subject.  I decide if I want the background in focus, blurry, compressed or uncompressed.  That decision tells me what lens I’m going to use.


If you typically find yourself dealing with backgrounds that are busy and filled with distractions, a good way to minimize those distractions is to shoot with a shallow depth of field.  That will do a couple of things to improve your image.  First, it will blur out the distractions so the emphasis is more on your subject.  Secondly, your subject will have a good amount of separation from the background which will draw a viewers eyes more towards your subject which is what you want.  If possible, minimize the distractions in your background.  Simplicity is a compositional technique that is very powerful and puts all of the emphasis on your subject.


If you can begin to think about what you want your image to look like two-dimensionally, and walk yourself through the steps it’ll take to get there, and be sure to pay attention to the little details, the quality of your photography will begin to skyrocket!  These tips are a good start down that path.  The key is to not rush.  Take your time, think it through, then build the image as you see it in your head, and the next thing you know, your backgrounds will become more appealing, less distracting, add to your images instead of take away from them.  As always, thanks for stopping by and spending some time with me this week.  I hope this info helps.  I’ll be back with more info next week!

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