Monday, July 21, 2008

Instructor's Tip: Backgrounds, Backgrounds, Backgrounds.

I told you guys that my instructor Russ Burden was a stickler for backgrounds. Don't tell him I said so, but dang it, he's right! I wouldn't have so many issues cloning out, dodging, burning, or masking out distracting elements in my backgrounds if I paid more attention to what I was actually seeing inside the viewfinder when I took the picture to begin with. I can personally relate to this week's Instructor's Tip, so I hope Russ' words of wisdom are useful for you too (and greatly decreases the time you spend in post-processing!) :)

"Backgrounds, Backgrounds, Backgrounds"

Before I press the shutter, there are four conditions I evaluate. In no set order, I determine if the light is right, if the subject is compelling, if the composition has interest, and if the background complements the subject. If the answer is yes to all four, I know I have a winner. If I answer yes to three or less, I may take the picture if what’s before me tells a story. If only two seem strong, I may or may not make the image. But if all four factors are strong, I never leave until I have exhausted all possibilities. One of the ways I do this is to try to alter the background.

To me, the background commands just as much importance as the subject. A great subject shot against a busy background nets a weaker image than the same subject shot against a clean background. The goal is to have your subject stand out from what’s behind it. If the two compete for attention, the image will fall short. To achieve the desired effect, control the background using Depth of Field, preventing mergers, and using color strategically.


The photo(s) in this post were taken by Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured this image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

To take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

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