Crop the Clutter.
Blur the Background.
Use the widest lens aperture or the smallest f/stop number: f/1.4, f/2, f/3.5, etc.
Select the longest focal length of a telephoto zoom lens. For example, 300mm on a 70–300mm.
Increase the distance between the subject and the background. The closer the subject is to the background, the more likely it will also be in focus.
Where is it Located?
Create with Convergence.
Blur the Background with Motion.
Look for a Natural Frame.
Do It in Post.
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An essential component of composing great photographs that others will want to view, again and again (and maybe even buy), is establishing a single element that attracts attention. An excellent photo can have more than one element, but only one of them should be prominent and the instant attraction that draws viewers’ eyes into your image and compels them to remain as long as possible. For, the longer they linger, the more they will see and a stronger connection will be made between what you are trying to say and whether viewers comprehend your message, fully.
The following 7 techniques are relatively simple to learn to emphasize which element should grab and hold the attention of viewers. Beginner photographers, even hobbyist, can take a rather significant leap forward in the quality of their photographs with the use of any, or a combination, of these methods.
It’s the classic image of the beginner or casual photographer: a single person or group of individuals lost in the center of the frame, and so small as barely recognizable. The large expanse surrounding the subject is filled with extraneous objects, background and/or activities that detract from the attracting element. The solution to this type of photo is quite simply…MOVE YOUR *#&%@! So many beginners seem to be glued to the spot from which they take a photograph. Move closer to the subject and fill the frame with him, her or it. You can also crop the clutter by shooting with a fixed focal length telephoto lens or telephoto zoom lens. The third technique is to enlarge the subject, thus cropping the clutter, during the editing process.
Another classic mistake is allowing the background to appear as much as in focus as the primary element of your photo. This typically occurs because you don’t understand the concept of depth of field and/or how to control it. PhotographyTalk has an excellent article about how to create blurred background for your photos. You’ll find the link at the end of this article. Blurring the background behind a sharply focused subject or object gives your photo more dimensionality, so it appears as if the subject/object pops from the background instead of being lost against it.
Depth of field is defined as how much of the area in front of and behind the subject appears in focus. You control this distance, or depth, in one of three basic ways:
Be very conscious of where the attracting element is placed within the frame of your photo. This is another reason you must be willing to move yourself and camera and try various angles and positions. For example, you are photographing a person’s face and you’ve applied the technique to fill the frame with his or her head.
That’s good, but the actual attracting elements in a portrait are the eyes, which you want to position in the upper third of the frame. The same applies to most all subjects and objects: placing them in the top half of the frame is more attracting than the lower half. Although in many landscape photos, a closer object in the foreground, or lower third, creates an excellent balance with larger objects in the background, such as mountains.
The important concept to learn is the Rule of Thirds, which states that, the best locations within a frame to attract the most attention to a subject or object is the intersections of two vertical and two horizontal lines, similar to a Tic-Tac-Toe layout.
Look for lines or patterns that converge within the picture in which you can position your subject to help draw viewers’ eyes to it.
An interesting technique that can be used with a subject or object in motion is to follow it with your camera in the direction in its moving. As it becomes positioned in the frame, as you want to capture it, then push the shutter. This will blur the background with the effect of being pulled in the same direction, but the subject will be much sharper. Typically, you must shoot at a slower shutter speed to make this technique work correctly.
With proper positioning of you and your camera and your subject, you may discover other objects within the environment in which to frame the subject. Place a subject within a door or window frame to help emphasize the subject as the attracting element.
As mentioned early, you can rescue a photo with a small subject surrounded by clutter in the editing process. Most editing software products offer a number of tools to manipulate an image: adjusting the level of light around the subject/object, making the subject sharper, modifying contrast and colors, etc.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Lori Gillespie
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