I’m going to go out on a limb here and talk about elements in photography as if I am a photographer. Why? Because while I agree that owning a nice camera doesn’t make a person a photographer, I do believe that simple elements in photography can be understood by anyone and therefore taught by anyone. That is why I’d like to write this post about the importance of foreground and background for the beginners. This is something I still struggle to perfect in photos, and I have yet to get it just right. I will, however, give examples of people who did get it right.
A lot of beginners think that if they have a great subject for the focus of their picture, then the picture is complete and perfect. This is a mistake I often make when I get overcome with beauty in a certain object, like a flower or garden. The problem is, however, that backgrounds of photos are just as important as foregrounds. Many times, the great background serves to enrich the foreground and object of focus and without it, the foreground would seem flat or empty. Need examples?
If you were going to take a photograph of a really huge red balloon tied to a white ribbon, that seems like it would make a vibrant and lively photo. If your background, however, is full of red balloons exactly the same, the foreground loses its special quality and therefore turns mundane. An ideal background could be anything but what if the red balloon was held up to a stormy sky? A white wall? A muddy field? You get the idea. Backgrounds are as essential as foregrounds when it comes to creating beautiful photographs. Backgrounds can always be altered via computer after the fact, which is something I frequently do, but it’s nice to work on creating good photographs from the ground up and not having to rely on computers to do that for us. Also note that color isn’t always the deciding factor regarding good back and foregrounds. The red balloon, however, just used color as an example. Let’s look at two photographs with different backgrounds and see which is more effective and why. (Edit: To demonstrate what a background can do, I am going to rely on photoshop to alter the background of this photo… until I get the energy to go out and make my own photographs, I will use the computer)
This picture originally featured a cigarette with a thin stream of smoke rising up. I altered it to be a burning cigarette alone in the dark. I altered it so we can talk about foreground/background. Now this picture is interesting and catches my attention slightly, but I’m not completely moved.
I edited this picture by adding a huge line of smoke, which stood alone in the original picture. Now the photograph catches my eye and makes me really look at it. But what about the background? Now that we have a good looking foreground (the cigarette and smoke), do we need a better background? Let’s see what this picture would look like on a different background. Again, because I am not out snapping photographs for this, I have to use color as an example. Sorry!
Now that there are various rays of light settling in the background, the picture has a few too many shapes, movements, and colors in it, doesn’t it? With the hard angles of the stripes, we lose the airy and mysterious feel that the smoke in the second picture originally gave us. It’s too cluttered. Backgrounds should compliment foregrounds, not confuse them!
I will post examples with my own photographs later on, but until then… do you have any good photographs that are the perfect combination between foreground and background? If so, I would love to see them. E-mail me if you do.
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